Preview: IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Arizona, USA

Big names set to compete include Jarryd Wallace, Vanessa Low, David Brown and Rachael Morrison. 12 May 2016
two men running, one with red clothes, one with a yellow t shirt saying guide

David Brown and guide Jerome Avery at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships Doha

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With the IPC Athletics outdoor season now well underway, the Grand Prix series heads to Arizona in the United States for two days of track and field action, starting on Friday 13 May.

More than 270 Para athletes from 16 countries will line up at the event which doubles as the Desert Challenge Games, as competitors look to make their mark on the international stage less than four months before the start of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Here are some of the key events:

Men’s 100m T44

US sprinter Jarryd Wallace won this event last year in an impressive 10.92 seconds, before going on to clock what was then a world record 10.71 at the Parapan Am Games in August. The 25-year-old returns to the Arizona State University track once again and is undoubtedly one to watch this weekend, having already notched up a number of fast times this season - including a wind assisted 10.57 at the Spec Towns Invitational in Georgia, USA. World relay silver medallist Trenten Merrill and Japanese sprinter Keita Sato also line up.

Men’s 200m T11

The USA’s David Brown – gold medallist in the 100m T11 at last year’s World Championships - opened his season last month, and made an instant impression as he clocked 22.45 over 200m at the Drake Relays in Iowa, USA. That mark was just 0.04 seconds shy of his world record set in 2014; how fast can the 23-year-old go this weekend in Arizona? World long jump T11 champion Lex Gillette is amongst those hoping to give Brown a run for his money.

Men’s 200m T42

Three athletes from last year’s 200m T42 World Championship final line up in Arizona this weekend hoping to lay down a marker ahead of the Paralympic Games in September. Denmark’s world bronze medallist Daniel Jorgensen is joined by the USA’s Regas Woods and Great Britain’s Dave Henson who finished sixth and seventh respectively in Doha, Qatar, last year – the USA’s Paralympic silver medallist Shaquille Vance also starts. A big race could well be on the cards.

Men’s 400m T52

Multiple world and Paralympic champion Ray Martin remains the man to beat in the T52 class. The 22-year-old takes on four track events in Arizona, and will be hoping for a repeat of his winning form from this time last year. Joining Martin on the start line are the men who won silver and bronze behind the American at last year’s Parapan Am Games – Colombia’s Cristian Torres and Mexico’s Salvador Hernandez, as well as his US teammates Steven Toyoji and Gianfranco Iannotta, and another Mexican world finalist, Leonardo Perez.

Men’s discus throw F44

Another battle between the top two Americans Jeremy Campbell and David Blair is once again on the cards in what continues to be a highly competitive and enthralling event. Paralympic and world champion Campbell will have to be on form to get the better of his rival Blair, who set a personal best of 60.46m when he won world silver last year.

Women’s 100m T34

Young talent Alexa Halko raced here last year with great success, and with a further 12 months experience under her belt – including her first World Championships, where she picked up two silver medals – it will be exciting to see just what the 15-year-old has in store. Canadians Rachael Burrows and Djami Diallo will be hoping to upset the form book.

Women’s 200m T54

A thrilling race between the USA’s Hannah McFadden and Cheri Madsen can be expected as the pair go head-to-head once again. Seven-time Paralympic medallist Madsen got the better of her younger rival at last year’s World Championships, clinching silver as McFadden raced to the line for bronze; both clocked 29.96 seconds. The 200m T54 is just one of five events McFadden will contest over the two days of competition while Madsen takes on four.

Women’s 800m T53

Bermuda’s Jessica Lewis has set her sights on reaching the podium at this year’s Paralympic Games, having enjoyed a successful 2015 when she won 100m T53 gold at the Parapan Am Games before adding world bronze two months later. The 23-year-old takes on the likes of US Paralympic marathon champion Shirley Reilly.

Women’s club throw F51

The USA’s Rachael Morrison made her Grand Prix debut at this event last year, and showed no sign of first-time nerves, winning both the discus and club throws. The 28-year-old went on to win discus gold and club throw silver at August’s Parapan American Games in Toronto, Canada, then went even further at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, winning discus gold with a new world record of 12.86m, as well as club throw silver. She will be tough competition once again for fellow US thrower Cassie Mitchell.

Women’s long jump T42

World long jump champion Vanessa Low opens her season in Arizona this weekend after a spectacular 2015 which saw the 25-year-old secure her first global title with a world record breaking leap of 4.79m. The German is aiming for her first Paralympic title at the Rio Games this year and a winning performance in Arizona would surely be a welcome start to her season.

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