The second Grand Prix of the 2016 IPC Athletics season kicks off in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Thursday (17 March) as more than 600 athletes from around the world descend on the Middle East hoping to make their intentions clear as the clock counts down to Rio 2016.
Last year 16 world records were broken at the Dubai Police Officer’s Club venue; just last week (7-12 March) 16 Asian records fell there at the IPC Athletics Asia-Oceania Championships.
Here is a taste of what to look out for over four days of competition at the 8th Fazza IPC Athletics Grand Prix.
Men’s 100m T33/ T34
The United Arab Emirates’ star wheelchair racer Mohamed Hammadi returns to the track just days after winning four gold medals at the Asia-Oceania Championships; he will be hoping that form continues against a field including European medallists Bojan Mitic of Switzerland and Sebastien Mobre of France, as well as the Netherlands’ Stefan Rusch. Kuwait’s 100m T33 world record holder Ahmed Almutairi also starts.
Men’s 200m T54
The Netherlands’ Kenny van Weeghel and Finland’s Leo-Pekka Tahti go head-to-head once more in a battle for T54 sprinting supremacy. Van Weeghel, the reigning 200m T54 world champion, won this event last year – also lining up is Frenchman Julien Casoli, Germany’s Marc Schuh and Japan’s Sho Watanabe.
Men’s 800m T11/13
Algerian Abdellatif Baka finished top of the world rankings last year having set a new world record of 1:50.70 in Seoul, South Korea, in May. The 21-year-old rounded off 2015 with two silver medals at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, and will be the man to beat in Dubai this week. Moroccans Youssef Benibrahim and Tarik Zalzouli as well as Turkey’s Mehmet Nesim Oner are amongst those hoping to do just that.
Men’s 1,500m T12
Three of last year’s world finalists line up in Dubai – including the Paralympic 5,000m champion El Amin Chentouf of Morocco. Chentouf finished third in the 1,500m T13 at last year’s World Championships, one place ahead of Turkey’s Oguz Akbulut. Watch out too for Uzbekistan’s Sirojiddin Norov, bronze medallist at the 2014 Asian Para Games.
Men’s 1,500m T54
Marcel Hug returns to Dubai hoping for a repeat of his winning form here at this event last year. The ‘Swiss Silver Bullet’ takes on all the available T54 races in Dubai - from 100m up to 5,000m – having won the 800m, 1,500m and 5,000m here last time around. The 30-year-old is out to achieve his Rio 2016 qualification standards so expect some fast times.
Men’s Club throw F31/32
Algeria’s Paralympic bronze and world silver medallist Lahouari Bahlaz (F32) won this event last year ahead of Great Britain’s former Paralympic and world champion Stephen Miller, who also returns to Dubai. Bahlaz’s compatriots Bakiri Mounir and Karim Betina should not be dismissed.
Women’s 100m T37/38
Former T37 world champion Mandy Francois-Elie takes on a field including 2013 world silver medallist Maria Seifert, Russia’s Svetlana Sergeeva and Great Britain’s Katrina Hart at the Dubai track. The Frenchwoman will be hoping for a return to the form that also saw her win Paralympic gold in 2012 – she will have to work hard in what is fast becoming a highly competitive T37 class. Great Britain’s reigning T38 world champion Sophie Hahn also returns to Dubai having won here last year.
Women’s shot put F34
Morocco’s African record holder Saidi Amoudi finished fourth in the world rankings and fourth in the World Championships last year – three UAE para-athletes are amongst those hoping to get the better of the 36-year-old on their home soil this time around – Alzaabi Thuraya, Latifa Alsuwaidi and Mangay Hajira.
Women’s discus F57
The reigning world champion Saifi Nassima of Algeria heads up a highly competitive field which also includes the para-athletes who finished third and fourth behind her at Doha 2015 – Ireland’s Orla Barry and another Algerian, Safia Djelal. Also throwing is the UAE’s Siham Alrasheedy and Bulgaria’s Ivanka Koleva, who finished sixth and ninth respectively in the World Championships final.
The IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Dubai takes please between 17-20 March.