With the 2016 Para athletics season now behind us it’s time to look back at some of the highlights of the year. Here are 10 of the top sprint headlines from 2016 – watch out for field and distance events coming soon.
1. Peacock triumphs again
British sprinter Jonnie Peacock proved yet again that he is the man for the big occasion. While US sprinter Jarryd Wallace led the way with consistent fast times throughout much of the season, Peacock came good just when it mattered- first at the European Championships, then at the Paralympic Games. The times didn’t matter – Peacock delivered where others could not to maintain his stunning unbeaten run in major events.
2. Van Rhijn wins double gold
Dutch ‘Blade Babe’ Marlou van Rhijn has dominated women’s T43/44 sprinting since she won 200m gold and 100m silver four years ago at London 2012. Double world champion in 2013 and 2015, van Rhijn broke her own 100m T43 world record in Nottwil, Switzerland in May, and lived up to expectations in Rio, securing a highly coveted double sprint gold.
3. Durand shows why she’s the world’s fastest female Para athlete
Few would have doubted the Cuban finishing top of the podium at Rio 2016 – but she made sure she did it in style, securing a hat trick of T12 sprint titles with four Paralympic records and three world records along the way.
4. Ferreira is Brazil’s new hero
Petrucio Ferreira had shown early indications of his potential in 2015 when he broke the 200m T47 world record in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Ruled out of his first World Championships at Doha 2015 through injury, the 19-year-old, who celebrates his birthday this week, became a Paralympic hero for legions of Brazilian fans in Rio who roared with delight as he shattered the 100m T47 world record which had stood for a remarkable 24 years.
5. Puzi makes Malaysian history
History was made when Mohamad Mohamad Puzi clinched 100m T36 gold at Rio 2016 – his country’s first ever Paralympic gold medal across all sports. Puzi, who also won gold at the Asia Oceania Championships in Dubai, UAE, in March, lit up the stadium with his winning smile and celebration.
6. Genyn and Iannotta defeat Paralympic champions – starting in Nottwil
At May’s Nottwil Grand Prix, Belgium’s Peter Genyn and the USA’s Gianfranco Iannotta both took major scalps. Genyn got the better of London 2012 champion Toni Piispanen in the men’s 100m T51, while Iannotta beat his US teammate Ray Martin to the line in the men’s 100m T52. Genyn and Iannotta both went on to win their first Paralympic titles at Rio 2016.
7. Hermitage dominates at Grosseto European Championships
Great Britain’s Georgie Hermitage enjoyed a terrific season on the track, winning a phenomenal six major championship titles in the women’s T37 class – two golds at Rio 2016 and four at the European Championships in Grosseto, Italy in June, where she also set new world record marks over 200m and 400m.
8. Whitehead proves age is no barrier – but beware his 14-year-old rival
Multiple world and Paralympic champion Richard Whitehead turned 40 this year – but he shows no sign of slowing down. The Briton smashed the 200m T42 world record twice in 2016, first in Leverkusen, Germany, then two weeks later at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix Final in London, Great Britain. He won the Paralympic title at Rio 2016; South Africa’s Ntando Mahlangu, just 14, won silver and could well be the star of the future.
9. Clegg enjoys newfound success in T11 class
The 2016 season provided a number of firsts for Great Britain’s Libby Clegg – a new guide in British sprinter Chris Clarke, a new class as she moved from T12 to T11, new world records and not one but two first place finishes at Rio 2016. She brought the reign of Brazilian T11 track queen Terezhina Guilhermina to a decisive end.
10. Malone versus Woodhall – the new rivalry
Sprints frequently throw up fascinating rivalries, and while 2016 began with the anticipation of a thrilling showdown between Jonnie Peacock, Richard Browne and Jarryd Wallace, so it ended with two new kids on the block. Step forward T43 sprinters Liam Malone of New Zealand and the USA’s Hunter Woodhall. Their head-to-heads might well be one of the highlights of 2017.