Para athletics: 2017 distance season review29.12.2017
When it came to middle and long distance racing this year, what were the big stories?
Numerous distance records fall
Australian Michael Roeger kicked off the 2017 Para athletics season Down Under in superb form, smashing the 1,500m and 5,000m T46 world records. In Arizona, USA, Cassie Mitchell broke the 1,500m T51 record which had stood for 28-years. Often a tactical event, several other 1,500m records also fell this year – Briton Hannah Cockroft broke the 1,500m T34 mark, Tunisian Walid Ktila smashed the men’s equivalent, Canadian Brent Lakatos set a new 1,500m T53/54 record and Australian Deon Kenzie lowered the 1,500m T38 best.
Baka brothers keep winning in the family
Fouad and Abdellatif made it a Baka brothers golden double with world title wins in the men’s 800m and 1,500m T13 respectively – just as they had predicted at the Paris Grand Prix earlier in the year when each came away with a middle-distance win.
Brannigan the face of T20 distance running
No one doubted Paralympic champion Michael Brannigan’s potential when he arrived at July’s World Championships – he had already broken the 1,500m T20 world record in February and the 5,000m T20 mark in April. The American lived up to expectations with two superb victories in London – winning the 1,500m and 800m T20, with silver over 5,000m as well.
Old guard still going strong
Ireland’s Michael McKillop is still leading the way in the T37 middle-distance events, having won double gold at London 2017. The 27-year-old won the first of his nine world titles back in 2006. Switzerland’s Marcel Hug and the USA’s Tatyana McFadden continue to be dominant forces in the men’s and women’s T54 class – Hug broke the 10,000m T54 world record this year before winning 800m, 1,500m and 5,000m T54 gold at London 2017 while McFadden won a phenomenal four world titles, including the 800m and 1,500m T54 – despite suffering serious blood clots earlier in the year.
But new faces at the top of the podium too
David Emong of Uganda won his country’s first ever world gold when he took first place in the 1500m T46 at London 2017. Kenya’s Samwel Kimani and Morocco’s Youssef Benibrahim won their first world titles too – Kimani clinched the 1,500m and 5,000m T11 while Benibrahim – silver and bronze medallist at previous World Championships – won the 5,000m T13. Tunisia’s Yassine Gharbi also showed he may be a force to be reckoned with in future years in the T54 class.
Swiss hat-trick of marathon wins
Of the six major marathons taking place around the world this year – starting in Tokyo, Japan in February and ending in New York, USA in November – there have been three different male and female winners. Japan’s Sho Watanabe, Swiss Marcel Hug and Briton David Weir have each reached the top of the podium, while in the women’s field Swiss Manuela Schär and US duo Amanda McGrory and Tatyana McFadden have all tasted success. It’s been Switzerland’s year though; Hug and Schär both won in Boston – setting new course records – as well as Berlin and New York, with Hug also winning in Chicago and Schär victorious in London.
Abbott World Major Series up for grabs
Four of the seven races in Series XI have taken place this year – London, Berlin, Chicago and New York. Going into 2018 Marcel Hug tops the men’s leaderboard with 91 points, with Briton David Weir and Australian Kurt Fearnley second and third respectively on 25 points. In the women’s series Manuela Schar leads the way with 84 points. Amanda McGrory and Tatyana McFadden are both on 41 points in second and third place respectively. Points from an athlete’s best four races count towards the total, so wins in Tokyo in February would seal Series XI for both Hug and Schar.