Para athletics top 2020 moments

From a bio secure marathon bubble in the streets of London to world records around the world a lookback at the last 12 months 23 Dec 2020
Three men in wheelchairs and face masks in a podium in front of Buckingham Palace in London
Canada's Brent Lakatos with the winners trophy at 2020 London Marathon with Great Britain's David Weir (left) and Marcel Hug of Switzerland (right)
ⒸJohn Sibley - Pool/Getty Images
By World Para Athletics

The plans for the year may have changed but there was plenty of action in Para athletics in 2020. 

From a bio secure bubble in the streets of London to world records around the world and a ground-breaking movie, here are some of the top moments of the last 12 months.

New format, new winners

The 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon was initially scheduled to April and postponed to October due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to make the event possible, the London Marathon Organising Committee put together an unprecedented plan creating a bio secure bubble for the athletes.

Depending on the country of departure, athletes had to quarantine between seven to 14 days in Great Britain. 

The race featured a closed-loop circuit around St. James’s Park in central London opposed to the traditional street circuit. For safety reasons, there was only one drink station with water which had been sealed and left in a secure container on venue for five days. 

The iconic finish on The Mall remained and the first Para athletes to cross the line were unexpected ones. Netherlands’ Nikita den Boer and Canada's Brent Lakatos made history in the women’s and men's elite wheelchair races with first-time victories.

Movie stars

No other sport had so many athletes featured on “Rising Phoenix” as Para athletics. 

Netflix’s documentary about the history of the Paralympic Movement was launched in August in more than 190 countries worldwide. 

France’s Jean-Baptiste Alaize, Great Britain’s Jonnie Peacock, South Africa’s Ntando Mahlangu and USA’s Tatyana McFadden represented Para athletics in the movie.

“Sports are supposed to keep us together and to bring us together and I think this film is definitely going to do that, not only for people who know about the Paralympics but it’s going to bring the whole world together,” Mahlangu said.

You can watch the ‘Rising Phoenix’ trailer here below.

Racing virtually

In November, eight of the world’s best Para athletes joined a marathon relay that combined the best of real-world and virtual racing.

The ASICS World Ekiden 2020 was a platform to bring runners together around the world when they were apart during the pandemic.

South Africa’s Anrune Weyers, Great Britain’s Kayleigh Haggo, Switzerland’s Marcel Hug, Netherlands’ Noah Mbuyamba, Brazil’s Thalita Simplicio and her guide Felipe Veloso, and Singapore’s Zac Leow were Team United Running Club.  

Brazil’s Alex Pires, South Africa’s Arina Nicolaisen and Louzanne Coetzee, Japan’s Atsushi Yamamoto, Peru’s Efrain Sotacuro and Bermuda’s Jessica Lewis formed Team #NoBoundaries.

The overall winner was Team Calcagni with four Italian wheelchair racers. 
The virtual relay came in direct response to an ongoing global research into the needs of runners during the pandemic in which two thirds of the participants admitted to missing the chance to compete with others.

World records galore

If there was any concern that the pandemic could have an impact on performances, athletes showed the opposite when competition resumed.

Taking into account only Para athletics that are part of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, there were eight world records set during the year. Full list below.

Men’s events
Long jump T63, Leon Schaefer, Germany (7.24) 
Shot put F41, Niko Kappel, Germany (14.30)
Javelin F38 , Corey Anderson, Australia (58.18)
100m T51, Peter Gynn, Belgium (19.71)

Women’s events
1500m T54, Manuela Schaer, Switzerland (3:12.35)
Shot put F37, Lisa Adams, New Zealand (15.50)
Shot put F40, Renata Sliwinska, Poland (9.11)
Discus throw F64, Faustyna Kotlowska, Poland (36.53)

In 2021, these and other world record holders will be back in action when the Grand Prix season. The full calendar can be found here.