The 2015 IPC Athletics Grand Prix series heads to Brazil on Thursday (23 April) for three days of track and field action in Sao Paulo, with more than 340 athletes from 20 different countries set to line up at the city’s Icaro de Castro Mello Stadium.
For many of the competitors travelling from abroad, the meeting will provide a chance to experience the local conditions with the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games less than 18 months away.
Many of Brazil’s top stars will be on the start line in Sao Paulo eager to use the opportunity to take part in a major international meeting on home soil as they continue preparations for October’s IPC Athletics World Championships – and before that, August’s Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games.
Multiple Paralympic and world champion Terezhina Guilhermina - the face of the 2016 Games - is just one of the home nation’s 10 Paralympic medallists from 2012 set to compete.
Here are some of the key contenders:
Women’s 100m T11
Last week Guilhermina and Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt captured the public’s attention worldwide, as Bolt acted as Guilhermina’s guide on the track ahead of the ‘Mano a Mano’ race in Rio. This week Brazil’s triple world champion lines up alongside two of her biggest rivals and compatriots Jerusa Santos and Jhulia Santos, who finished second and third respectively behind the 36-year-old at both the London 2012 Paralympic Games and the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in France.
Women’s 100m T13
Another highly competitive race with old rivalries rekindled. South Africa’s Ilse Hayes won Paralympic 100m T13 silver behind Cuba’s Omara Durand at London 2012. The pair did not meet at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships but will race head-to-head in Sao Paulo, with Hayes – winner here 12 months ago - already showing terrific form this year.
Women’s 200m T38
Brazil’s teenage sprint star Veronica Hipolito raced in to the spotlight at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France, winning gold in this event on her international debut. The 18-year-old, who comes from Sao Paulo, will be hoping for another impressive performance in front of her home crowd having won the 100m, 200m and 400m T38 here last year.
Women’s 400m T46
South Africa and Cuba line up once more as Yunidis Castillo and Anrune Liebenberg race over one lap. Castillo has come out on top in major championships, winning both Paralympic and world gold, with Liebenberg having to settle for silver each time. Castillo will no doubt be favourite once more, and holds the world record of 55.72, while Liebenberg managed 58.69 in Nottwil last year.
Women’s shot put F57
Mexico’s Angeles Ortiz Hernandez, the Paralympic and world shot put champion, topped the world rankings in 2014 after throwing 10.72m in Mexico in December. Winner at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Dubai in February, Hernandez will no doubt be hoping to return to the top of the rankings this year – she currently sits second behind Algeria’s Safia Djelal.
Women’s javelin F37
Brazil’s Shirlene Coelho has a history of success on the international stage, with medals from two Paralympic Games and two World Championships to prove it. The 34-year-old threw a new world record of 37.86m on her way to javelin gold at London 2012 and excels in the shot put and discus too, having won world shot put F37 bronze in Lyon in 2013. She will prove tough competition for the likes of Venezuela’s Yomaira Cohen.
Men’s 100m T11
Winner in Sao Paulo last year, Brazil’s Lucas Prado secured double sprint gold at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships, but he should be pushed all the way here in a field bursting with talent – his compatriots Felipe Gomes and Daniel Silva ought not to be dismissed. Second in the world rankings last year – and one ahead of Prado - Gomes won the 200m T11 at London 2012. Silva meanwhile triumphed in the 400m T11 at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships.
Men’s 200m T46
Brazil’s Yohannson Nascimento sprinted in to the record books at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships, clocking 21.91 – the first para-athlete in his class to dip below the 22 second mark. Paralympic champion in 2012, the 27-year-old takes to the track in Sao Paulo for his first major competition of the year.
Men’s discus F44
The USA’s world and Paralympic champion Jeremy Campbell lines up in Brazil after a successful few months winter training. The 27-year-old holds the world record of 63.46m and is excited about what’s to come this year, with what he regards as one of ‘the best fall’s training’ behind him.
Men’s long jump F11/12
The IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Brazil is sure to hold great memories for Cuba’s world and Paralympic champion Luis Felipe Gutierrez, who won here last year as well as setting a new world record of 2.06m in the high jump F12/13. He takes on both events in Brazil this week and comes up against the likes of South Africa’s world long jump T12 champion Hilton Langenhoven, third here 12 months ago.