World champions Hannah Cockroft, Yassine Gharbi, Madison de Rozario, Peter Genyn and Brent Lakatos were among the winners on Friday (25 May), the first day of competition at the Nottwil Grand Prix in Switzerland.
British track star Cockroft scored a double victory out on the track as temperatures climbed to 27 degrees Celsius, winning the 200m T34 (30.64) in the morning before leaving the rest of the field in her wake to seal victory over 800m (1:59.60) later in the day.
“It was hard work, I think I maybe overcooked it on the first 400m, went a little bit faster than I should have,” said the 25-year-old after finishing the 800m.
“It’s really hot out here and I’m not used to that, so I’m not really happy with the time, but to be going consistently under two minutes now is something good so I’ll take that positive away from it.
“I’m definitely getting stronger doing the 800m and I‘m definitely getting better at it and learning more from it.”
Tunisia’s 200m and 400m T54 world champion Yassine Gharbi also looked formidable as he finished fastest out of all the men’s 200m T54 heats.
The 28-year-old, who broke the 400m T54 world record in Dubai earlier this year, raced round the bend with Dutchman Kenny van Weeghel and Finland’s Leo Pekka Tahti also in contention, but Gharbi’s strength couldn’t be matched as he pulled clear to take the win.
“Now I feel okay but I’m not in 100 per cent form yet,” said Gharbi, who admitted he gained significant confidence from his two gold medals at last year’s World Championships.
“In the 200m and 400m I have confidence, I broke the 400m world record this year and I have more to give. I’m happy now with the result but my focus is on next year (World Championships) and the year after that (Tokyo 2020).”
More success for Madison
Australia’s Madison de Rozario (1:49.76) has already enjoyed terrific success this year, winning two Commonwealth Games titles as well as the London marathon.
The 24-year-old was first across the line once again, this time in the 800m T53, but she still doesn’t take anything for granted.
“I didn’t have too many expectations, it was just a good experience and a good chance to race all the girls. There are so many of us who are so strong - you can never discount Tatyana (McFadden), Manuela (Schaer) and Susannah (Scaroni) and Hamide (Kurt) in the 800m T53, she had such an amazing race at Worlds last year - so I think you can never really afford to relax,” said de Rozario.
Canada’s multiple world champion Brent Lakatos (1:37.21) finished strongly in the men’s 800m T53 to take the win in a world best time ahead of Thailand’s Paralympic champion Pongsakorn Paeyo (1:37.74).
USA’s Daniel Romanchuk (1:31.96) took off at the gun and quickly opened up a sizeable lead in the final heat of the men’s 800m T54, and the gap proved too much for his opponents as he took the win ahead of a tough field including Paralympic champion and home favourite Marcel Hug.
The women’s 800m T54 was won by American Susannah Scaroni (1:45.10) who got the better of Swiss star Manuela Schaer (1:45.19) in the final few metres. Briton Olivia Gallagher (3:16.59) won the women’s 800m T33.
Thailand’s double Paralympic champion Paeyo (25.50) did secure a win in the morning session which was dominated by 200m races.
The 21-year-old was up against a field including Tunisia’s Walid Ktila, who was reclassified from the T34 to the T53 class before competition got underway in Nottwil, and he looked strong as he powered round the bend in to first place with Ktila chasing hard behind to secure second.
Turkey’s Hamide Kurt (30.36) clocked a new world lead in the women’s 200m T53, while there was clear delight for her teammate Zubeyde Supurgeci (28.97) who raised her arms aloft after a superb win in the women’s 200m T54, to claim the world number one spot in her class.
Genyn wins showdown
Belgian Peter Genyn (36.83) looked in terrific form as he saw off his rivals in the men’s 200m T51. The Paralympic and world champion was quickly away at the gun and never looked under threat as he powered home to the win ahead of rival Toni Piispanen of Finland. (38.34).
Genyn, who broke a world record in Nottwil last year, was pleased with his performance.
“I think I had the perfect start, so it was the perfect opener for this series and I’m sure it’s going to boost my confidence,” said Genyn. “We’ve been working a lot on the start and on top speed and it has paid off.”
Australian Rheed McCracken (26.54) was the clear winner ahead of the UAE’s Mohamed Alhammadi (27.76) in the men’s 200m T34, but roles were reversed in the afternoon when Alhammadi (1:44.86) came through in the closing stages of the 800m T34 to take the win ahead of McCracken (1:45.12).
China’s Kun Gao (33.85) looked a class above the rest as he crossed the line nearly two seconds clear of his rivals in the men’s 200m T33, while the powerful figure of Dutchman Ronald Hertog (22.99) tore through the field in the men’s T64 class.
Dutch success also came through Fleur Jong (29.10), who competes in the T62 class for bilateral below knee amputees, and T64 Para athlete Marlene van Gansewinkel (27.26), who is in the T64 class for single below knee amputees.
Colombia’s Dixon Hooker Velasquez (23.28) won the T38; Frenchman Valentin Bertrand (25.84) won the 200m T37 and Brazilian Gustavo Araujo (22.54), fifth at London 2017, claimed the win in the T13.
In the day’s field events, Poland’s Tomasz Paulinski (40.19m) impressed in the men’s discus F35, as did his teammate Dorota Szmula who managed 10.91m in the women’s javelin F33.
Luxembourg’s F63 Para athlete Tom Habscheid threw the discus a best of 44.51m and the Netherland’s Lara Baars achieved a winning throw of 6.90m in the women’s shot put F40.
Colombia’s Paralympic bronze medallist Mauricio Valencia (10.76m) continued his recent run of form as he got the better of Morocco’s Paralympic champion ParaAzeddine Nouiri (9.70m) in the shot put F34.
Full results can be found here, and competition continues on Saturday 26 May.