Preview: IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Grosseto, ItalyAround 237 athletes from 40 countries are set to compete at the Carlo Zecchini Olympic Stadium in the season’s fourth Grand Prix event. 07 Apr 2016
The fourth IPC Athletics Grand Prix of the 2016 season gets underway in Grosseto, Italy, this week (8-10 April) at the city’s Carlo Zecchini Olympic Stadium - the venue for the 2016 IPC Athletics European Championships in just two months’ time.
Around 237 athletes from 40 countries will line up over the three days of competition.
With the European Championships on the horizon and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games now less than five months away, exciting performances should be on the cards.
Here are just a few of the names to look out for:
Egor Sharov (400m, 800m T13)
The Russian won 800m T13 gold and 400m T13 silver at the 2015 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, and takes on both distances in Grosseto. The 27-year-old European champion and Paralympic silver medallist may be the favourite on the Italian track, but he shouldn’t ignore the likes of Uzbekistan’s Fakhriddin Khamrev, fourth in Doha over one lap.
Dave Henson (100m, 200m T42)
The 31-year-old former British Army Troop commander will be hoping to make a big impression in only his 25th para-athletics competition. Henson competed in his first World Championships in 2015 finishing in seventh place in the 200m T42. He has a personal best of 26.44 and will be out to improve on that mark with Rio 2016 qualification a key objective in the coming weeks.
Aleksei Labzin (100m, 400m T13)
Part of the victorious Russian 4x100m T11-13 relay quartet at the World Championships in Doha in 2015, Labzin also has an impressive individual cv too, having won double sprint gold at the 2011 World Championships as well as four individual Paralympic medals - including 400m gold - from two Games.
Adrian Matusik (shot put, discus F44)
The Slovakian was in terrific form at Doha 2015, winning shot put gold with a personal best of 17.19m as he took the scalp of Denmark’s former world champion Jackie Christiansen by just one centimetre. The 35-year-old won shot put gold and discus silver at the Europeans in 2014 and will be tough competition for the likes of Greek thrower Miltiadis Kyriakidis.
Manolis Stefanoudakis (shot put, javelin F54)
The Greek thrower has already enjoyed success on the Grand Prix circuit this year, most recently winning the javelin and shot put in Tunisia. The 33-year-old has been working his way to the top of the podium in the javelin; he won bronze at London 2012, silver at the 2014 Europeans and gold at Doha 2015. He currently holds the javelin F54 world record and will be hoping to keep his place at the top of the rankings with another winning performance against the likes of local favourite Alessandro Straser.
Abdulrahman Abdulrahman (shot put F34)
Another para-athlete showing great form this year is Qatari Abdulrahman, who won gold at March’s IPC Athletics Asia Oceania Championships in Dubai, UAE, as well as discus silver and javelin bronze. The 27-year-old takes on the likes of Czech European bronze medallist Martin Dvorak.
Oxana Corso (100m, 200m T35)
The home favourite and former double world champion will be hoping for a strong performance on home ground as she takes on both the 100m and 200m in what has become an incredibly competitive class. Corso, 20, set new personal bests in both events as she finished fourth (100m) and third (200m) in Doha. She’ll be hoping to improve even more this year and climb higher up the podium.
Franziska Liebhardt (long jump T37, shot put F37)
The German won two world silver medals in Qatar in 2015, in the long jump T37 and in the shot put F37, where she threw a new European record to finish behind China’s Mi Na. Expect stiff competition in the shot put from Czech Eva Berna - no stranger to big competitions, with three Paralympic bronze medals to her name as well as the European shot put F37 title, which she clinched ahead of Liebhardt.
Hamide Kurt (100m, 400m, 800m T53)
The 22-year-old from Turkey won 100m T53 silver at last year’s World Championships, setting a new European record of 17.10 in the process. Kurt currently sits second in the world rankings behind Australia’s Angie Ballard, and has already won on the 2016 IPC Athletics Grand Prix circuit this year – she finished first in Dubai in March.