The 2015 IPC Athletics Grand Prix series gets underway on Sunday (22 February) with the 7th Fazaa International Athletics Competition in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Over 450 para-athletes from 45 countries will line-up at the Dubai Police Club venue hoping to kick start 2015 in winning form.
The four days of world class track and field action marks the first of nine IPC Athletics Grand Prix this year, culminating in the Grand Prix Final which will be held later this summer, with the much anticipated IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar in October.
Last year the Dubai Grand Prix saw an amazing seven world and 22 regional records; Tunisia’s world and Paralympic champion Walid Ktlia led the way, setting three world records in the 200m, 400m and 800m T34.
Here are the events to look out for:
100m and 200m T34
Ktila, 29, will be hoping he can reproduce his record breaking form again this year as he takes on the likes of the Netherlands’ Stefan Rusch, Switzerland’s Bojan Mitic and UAE’s own Mohamed Hammadi. The trio were third, fourth and fifth respectively behind Ktila in the 100m T34 at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France.
Hammadi, also 29, was the only para-athlete from the UAE to medal at the IPC Athletics World Championships in 2013, winning 800m T34 silver and 400m T34 bronze.
Racing in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m T34 in Dubai, Hammadi – who also clinched Paralympic silver and bronze in the T34 sprints in London - will hope to give the home crowds plenty to cheer about as one of 88 competitors from the host nation, along with his compatriot Salem Al Kaabi who set a new world record in the club throw F31 in the same meeting last year.
Distance races T54
The men’s T54 races are also set to provide plenty of excitement as five-time world champion Marcel Hug arrives in Dubai ready for his season opener.
The Swiss ‘Silver Bullet’, who won three European titles in Swansea last August, triumphed in the 800m, 1,500m and 5,000m here last year and will provide tough competition over the longer distances for the likes of Germany’s European 1,500m and 5,000m silver medallist Alhassane Balde and his compatriot Marc Schuh, a European silver medallist in the 400m and bronze medallist over 800m. Watch out too for Thailand’s Paralympic 1,500m silver medallist Prawat Wahoram.
100m and 200m T54
In the T54 sprints, the Netherlands’ Kenny van Weeghel and Finland’s Leo Pekka Tahti will again go head-to-head, continuing their long-standing rivalry which saw the Dutchman clinch European 200m T54 gold ahead of Pekka Tahti, with the roles reversed over 100m.
100m and 200m T35
Great Britain’s teenage sensation Maria Lyle made her mark on the world stage with a new 200m T35 world record in Dubai last year on her international debut. Lyle clocked 31.01 – a mark she went on to better three months later. The 15-year-old double European champion competes in the 100m and 200m in Dubai.
Long jump T36
Out in the field, Germany’s 200m T36 world champion Claudia Nicoleitzik will also have fond memories of Dubai 12 months ago, having set a new long jump T36 world record with a leap of 4.09m.
Russia’s world and Paralympic champion Alexey Ashapatov throws in the shot put, javelin and discus F57. He can expect strong opposition in the discus, with Azerbyjan’s Samir Nabiyev, who clinched world discus F57 silver behind the Russian 18 months ago, and Egypt’s Metawa Abouelkhir, Paralympic discus F57 bronze medallist behind Ashapatov in 2012, also in the line-up.
Shot put F32/33
The men’s shot put F32/33 meanwhile is bursting with talent as Algeria’s three medallists from the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships – Kamel Kardjena, Karim Betina and Mounir Bakiri – are all in the field. The trio have a habit of finishing on the podium, having also secured gold, silver and bronze at the Paralympic Games 12 months earlier.
Live results from the Dubai Grand Prix, which takes place from 22-25 February, can be found at the Team Thomas website.
The 2015 IPC Athletics Grand Prix series continues with the next event taking place in Brisbane, Australia next month. Meetings will then be held in Tunis, Tunisia; Beijing, China; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Mesa, USA; Nottwil, Switzerland; Grosseto, Italy and Berlin, Germany.