All eyes will be on London this weekend for the last major track and field event before the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
The 2016 IPC Athletics Grand Prix season officially comes to a close on Saturday 23 July with the Grand Prix Final in London, Great Britain – the last chance for many of the world’s best Para athletes to compete before heading to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in less than 50 days’ time.
The event at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park forms part of British Athletics’ Müller Anniversary Games and marks the 10th Grand Prix of the season which has taken five continents.
Around 100 Para athletes from 19 countries will line up at the Grand Prix Final in the British capital – the scene of the last Paralympic Games in 2012.
With Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the next stop for many, here is a taste of what to look out for:
Men’s 100m T47
The top three in the world line up in London with bragging rights at stake ahead of the Rio Games. Brazil’s Petrucio Ferreira is the current world number one; his compatriot Yohansson Nascimento is ranked second in the world and won Paralympic 200m gold here in 2012. Poland’s Michal Derus is world ranked number three – he is also the reigning world and European champion. It all adds up to a nail-biting encounter.
Men’s 100m T44
Another race bursting with talent is the highly-anticipated men’s 100m T44, featuring the top five sprinters in the world. The race in London could well provide a real indication of what to expect come the Paralympic final on 9 September. Great Britain’s reigning Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock clocked a scintillating new personal best of 10.68 just last week; the USA’s Jarryd Wallace has been the in-form sprinter this season, regularly clocking sub-11 seconds, while Germany’s European silver medallist Felix Streng raced 10.93 in May. South Africa’s world silver medallist Arnu Fourie and US former world champion Jerome Singleton also line up.
Men’s 200m T42
Great Britain’s Richard Whitehead won gold on this track four years ago – the 40-year-old will surely head to Rio de Janeiro as favourite to top the podium once again, after breaking his own world record in Leverkusen, Germany earlier this month with a time of 23.46. Whitehead is the reigning world and European champion and will provide tough competition for the likes of fellow Briton Dave Henson and Japan’s world long jump T42 champion Atsushi Yamamoto.
Men’s 1,500m T54
Another Paralympic champion returning to the scene of his memorable victory four years’ ago is Briton David Weir. The 37-year-old is up against one of his great rivals, Switzerland’s 2013 world champion Marcel Hug, who also holds the world record set in 2010. Watch out too for Dutchman Kenny van Weeghel, the 200m T54 world champion, who has recently stepped up to longer distances. Another Brit in form at the moment is Richard Chiassaro, who won two golds and three silvers at the 2016 European Championships last month.
Men’s discus F43/44
US thrower David Blair will start as favourite having broken the world record earlier this year. The world silver medallist finished first at the US Paralympic Trials and faces British thrower Dan Greaves, Paralympic silver medallist here in 2012, as well as Croatian pair Ivan Katanusic and Josip Slivar. Watch out too for T42 thrower Aled Davies – the Brit makes a guest appearance and has been in terrific form this season, breaking both his discus and shot put F42 world records.
Women’s 100m T34
Great Britain’s Hannah Cockroft is the reigning 100m T34 Paralympic and world champion – she also holds the world record, set in Nottwil, Switzerland in 2014. The 23-year-old is aiming for three golds at Rio 2016 – the 100m, 400m and 800m – and many of her chief rivals will be in London. US teenager Alexa Halko recently broke Cockroft’s 800m T34 world record, whilst Briton Kare Adenegan beat Cockroft over 400m last year – the first defeat Cockroft had suffered in over 300 races.
Women’s 100m T44
Dutch star Marlou van Rhijn lines up in her final race before Rio 2016, where she will be going for 100m and 200m Paralympic gold. The 24-year-old won here last year and will be hot favourite once again, having broken her own world record at the Nottwil Grand Prix in May. The USA’s former Paralympic champion April Holmes and Dutch sprinter Marlene van Gansewinkel are amongst those hoping to upset the form book.
Women’s 200m T11/12
Germany’s Katrin Mueller-Rottgardt won European 100m and 200m T12 gold last month and was in form again at last weekend’s IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Berlin, while Great Britain’s Libby Clegg used that opportunity in Germany to race in her first international competition with new guide Chris Clarke. The Briton won Paralympic silver in the 100m T12 in London and is now re-classified as a T11 Para athlete. Also on the start line in London is Paralympic 100m T11 silver medallist Jerusa Santos of Brazil.
Women’s 1,500m T54
Switzerland’s 2014 European champion Manuela Schaer heads up the field which also features her compatriot Catherine Debrunner, who finished fourth at Doha 2015, and Russia’s Natalia Kocherova who won five golds at last month’s European Championships – including the 1,500m T54. British hopes lie with 20-year-old Jade Jones.
Women’s club throw F32/51
The club throw promises plenty of excitement. Great Britain’s Jo Butterfield is the reigning world champion and world record holder in the F51 class – she threw 22.75m to secure European gold last month; Tunisia’s Maroua Ibrahmi , Algeria’s Mounia Gasmi and Great Britain’s Abbie Hunnisett won gold, silver and bronze respectively in the F32 class at Doha 2015. Then there’s US star Rachael Morrison, who won T51 world silver last year. Morrison set what was then a world record in 2014 – just weeks after throwing the club for the first time.
Tickets for the IPC Athletics Grand Prix Final can be purchased here.