Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, plays host to this week’s IPC Athletics Grand Prix, which takes place from 18-21 May at the newly refurbished Olympic Stadium, the scene of the 2016 Paralympic Games in less than four months’ time.
More than 300 Para athletes from 23 countries around the world have the chance to experience the 60,000 capacity venue in the meeting which doubles as the Rio 2016 Test Event.
It is an opportunity not to be missed for those who want to race on the freshly-laid Mondo track and try out the stadium’s facilities ahead of the Games.
Local heroes Terezhina Guilhermina, Yohansson Nascimento, Felipe Gomes, Daniel Silva, Odair Santos, Shirlene Coelho, Veronica Hipolito and Alan Oliveira, as well as international stars such as Marcel Hug, Omara Durand, Jeremy Campbell, Lex Gillette, Leinier Pineda and Yunidis Castillo are amongst a world-class lineup.
Here is a taste of what to look out for:
Men’s 100m T11
There’s an all-star Brazilian line-up in the men’s 100m T11, as the reigning Paralympic silver and bronze medallists Lucas Prado and Felipe Gomes, respectively, go head-to-head once again. Gomes won world silver over 100m in Doha, Qatar, last year to add to his gold medal over 200m – while Prado took silver at last August’s Parapan Am Games.
Men’s 200m T47
The race is on between Brazil’s Paralympic and world champion Yohansson Nascimento and young talent Petrucio Ferreira, who got the better of his more experienced team mate when he smashed the T46/47 world record to win this event last year in 21.49 seconds. Ferreira went on to win double sprint gold at the Parapan Am Games but missed the World Championships due to injury; can he get the better of 28-year-old Nascimento once again?
Men’s 200m T44
Paralympic champion Alan Fonteles Oliveira (T43) is another of last year’s winners hoping to make his mark out on the track as the Rio Games draw ever closer. The 23-year-old went to the top of the world rankings when he won last year – he faces the likes of Japan’s Keita Sato this week.
Men’s 400m T54
Swiss ‘Silver Bullet’ Marcel Hug takes on one lap on the track as he continues his preparations for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games after a superb start to the year out on the roads, winning both the Boston and London marathons. The 30-year-old has a trophy cabinet full of global gold medals but he has yet to top the podium at the Paralympic Games. Racing on the track in Brazil this week is undoubtedly part of Hug’s plan to leave no stone unturned in his bid for Paralympic glory.
Men’s long jump T42
Expect a close competition between Japan’s Atsushi Yamamoto and Denmark’s Daniel Jorgensen - gold and silver medallists respectively at last year’s World Championships. Both Para athletes have already impressed on the Grand Prix circuit this year; Yamamoto jumped 6.36m in Canberra, Australia, back in February, while Jorgensen leapt a mighty 6.48m in Arizona, USA, just last week (Saturday, 14 May).
Women’s 100m T11
Another race traditionally bursting with Brazilian talent is the women’s 100m T11, and all three medallists from London 2012 - Terezhina Guilhermina, Jerusa Geber dos Santos and Jhulia dos Santos - will race in Rio this week. Guilhermina, gold medallist at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012, is the current world record holder – although she failed to make the 100m final at last year’s World Championships as her two team mates went on to finish on the podium behind China’s Cuqing Liu. Guilhermina has a new guide this year and will be hoping to return to winning form.
Women’s 100m T12
Cuba’s Omara Durand raced in to the record books last year as she took the title of the world’s fastest female Paralympian after clocking 11.65 on her way to a hat trick of gold medals at the Parapan Am Games – her first major international competition after the birth of her daughter. Durand’s record breaking form continued at the World Championships as she claimed another hat trick of golds – setting new world records in the 100m, 200m and 400m. She’ll be hard to beat in Rio.
Women’s 100m T42
Italy’s Martina Caironi smashed the 15 second mark for the first time when she won global gold last year in 14.61 seconds – just one of a number of world records the 26-year-old broke in 2015. Brazil’s Ana Claudia Silva took bronze behind Caironi in Doha, Qatar, and will be hoping for another world class performance on home soil this week. The Italian meanwhile returns to the track after injury.
Women’s 400m T38
Former world champion Veronica Hipolito opens her season this week determined to secure a place in Brazil’s Paralympic Games squad. The 19-year-old competes in a hugely competitive class and after missing out on the 2015 World Championships to recover from surgery, she will be keen to prove that she’s the one to beat on home soil come September.
Women’s long jump T11
All three World Championship medallists line up in Rio – Brazilians Silvania Costa de Oliveira and Lorena Salvatini won gold and silver respectively at Doha 2015, while Sweden’s Viktoria Karlsson clinched the bronze. China’s Juntingxian Jia currently tops the world rankings after jumping 4.82m in Dubai two months ago; time will tell if that mark can be bettered this week.
The IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, take place from 18-21 May. Daily reviews can be found on the IPC Athletics website.