New stars ready to make a mark at Xalapa GP

Paralympic legend Omara Durand will be joined by local hero Chessani Garcia in a star-studded field from Thursday to Saturday in Mexico 26 Apr 2023
Mexico's Jose Rodolfo Chessani Garcia celebrates his Paralympic gold medal at Tokyo 2020 in the men’s 400m T38.
Mexico's Jose Rodolfo Chessani Garcia celebrates his Paralympic gold medal at Tokyo 2020 in the men’s 400m T38.
ⒸKiyoshi Ota / Getty Images.
By Ryan Hills I For World Para Athletics

It has been seven long weeks since the action at Marrakech came to a close. At that time, we have seen the retirement of an athletics great in Jason Smyth and more success for a legend of Para athletics in Marcel Hug.

But they are two names we are so familiar with. Let’s meet some new heroes at the Xalapa 2023 Grand Prix this week, shall we?

What do we know about this Grand Prix?

We know that it is a new name on the circuit! Xalapa replaced Monterrey last month and will now play host to some of the finest Para athletes on the planet, from both home and away. 

The home of the famous Jalapeno pepper, the Mexican city is the fourth stop on this year’s Grand Prix schedule too, coming after Tunis, Dubai, and Marrakech. The three-day event will be held from Thursday to Saturday (27 to 29 April) at the Heriberto Jara Corona Stadium.

Who will be competing?

It is going to be busy! Over 500 athletes from 20 nations will be competing, coming to Mexico from nations including USA, Ecuador, Great Britain, and Nepal.

And for the USA, how about a bit of Para athletics – and social media – royalty? Hunter Woodhall (T62) will be part of the small-sided team travelling south. A three-time Paralympic Games medallist in the 200m and 400m, the 24-year-old has done as much outside of the sport as in it. More than two million TikTok followers and a legion of supporters who have tracked his growth to the top, Woodhall will be aiming to make more magic.

Cuba’s sprinting queen Omara Durand (T12) is back to add more gold to her impressive collection. The eight-time Paralympic champion has already topped the podium in Dubai and Marrakech this season and will be running the 100m, 200m and 400m.

Amanda Cerna of Chile will be taking part too. The Lima 2019 Parapan American Games silver medallist in the 400m T47, Cerna has her sights firmly set on topping the podium this time around as she prepares for the World Championships in Paris and the Parapan Am Games at home later in the year. 

What about the hosts?

If we could make one prediction, it would be that there may be a few medals going to the hosts! 313 Mexican athletes are set up to compete in Xalapa, making up well over half of the entire field (507 are set to take part in total, in addition to 39 guides).

A huge number of those 313 athletes will be relatively unknown currently on the international circuit, but there are some names that promise to be in and around the podium. Of the Mexican team, Tokyo 2020 champions are dotted within. 

World-record setting 1500m T11 runner Monica Olivia Rodriguez will travel almost from coast-to-coast as she kicks up her Paris 23 World Championships preparations. Will she be able to keep the momentum running from her Tokyo gold medal? 

Jose Rodolfo Chessani Garcia is another of those Tokyo success stories who will be back on the track. In last year’s Mexican edition of the Grand Prix, Jose emerged from Monterrey with a double success in the 100m and 400m T38, fresh from his success in the 400m at the Games a year earlier. 

What’s happened so far this year?

Familiar names have triumphed, and new stars have been born! Across the three Grand Prixs so far, we have seen stunning successes for the likes of Switzerland’s Marcel Hug and Catherine Debrunner in Dubai, whilst China also raced there to collect a whopping 42 gold medals.

Last time out in Marrakech, hosts Morocco claimed 16 gold medals, while Brazil's Elizabeth Rodrigues Gomes and Nigeria’s Goodness Chiemerie Nwachukwu set world records in the process.  

How can I follow the action?

The three days of Xalapa 2023 will be streamed live on World Para Athletics Facebook page.  

Make sure you keep an eye on our social media channels as well - @paraathletics – where we’ll be bringing you coverage of the big moments. 

What’s next? 

The turnaround is quick. From Xalapa finishing on the 29 April, we go almost instantly over to northern Italy for the penultimate Grand Prix, this one coming in Jesolo. 

And the series ends late in May with the familiar sights of Nottwil playing host to the final Grand Prix of 2023 in Switzerland.