Preview: Tunis Grand Prix

Nearly 190 athletes from 13 countries will line-up for the season’s second major Para athletics meet. 11 Apr 2017
Walid Ktila of Tunisia leads the pack in the Men's 800m - T34 Final on day 7 of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on September 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Walid Ktila of Tunisia leads the pack in the Men's 800m - T34 Final on day 7 of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on September 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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The 2017 World Para Athletics Grand Prix series heads to Tunis, Tunisia on Thursday (13 April) for three days of world class track and field competition.

The event is the second on the 2017 Grand Prix calendar and features over 30 medallists from the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. In total, nearly 190 Para athletes from 13 nations will line up in the north African country.

The host nation boasts a field including all five of their reigning Paralympic champions - Walid Ktila, Abbes Saidi, Somaya Bousaid, Maroua Brahmi and Raoua Tlili.

Algeria has also sent a formidable team including Rio 2016 gold medallists Samir Nouioua, Nassima Saifi and Asmahan Boudjadar.

Watch out too for Greek Paralympic champion Manolis Stefanoudakis in the javelin throw F54; Moroccan shot put F34 Paralympic champion Nouiri Azeddine; Emirati Noura Alktebi, shot put F32 silver medallist and Saudi Arabia’s Hani Alnakhli, shot put F33 bronze medallist at Rio 2016.

Key contenders:

Men’s 100m T51

Paralympic silver medallist Mohamed Berrahal will start as the favourite in the men’s 100m T51, an event that has become significantly competitive in recent years. Berrahal raced at the season-opening Dubai Grand Prix in March where he finished first of the T51 wheelchair racers in 21.73. Expect another strong performance from the Algerian as he gears up for this summer’s World Championships.

Men’s 200m T34

Home favourite and multiple Paralympic and world champion Walid Ktila takes on three distances in Tunis – the 200m, 400m and 1,500m T34. Ktila was the most successful Para athlete at the 2015 World Championships, winning four individual titles – the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m T34. He also holds the world record in each event. His title-winning streak came to an end at Rio 2016 however as Mohamed Al Hammadi won the 800m T34 - this year Ktila will no doubt be hoping to make amends for that defeat, starting with success on home turf.

Men’s 400m T37

Algeria’s Sofiane Hamdi clinched Paralympic bronze at Rio 2016 and the 27-year-old has already shown fine form this year, winning the 400m T36/37 at the Dubai Grand Prix ahead of Great Britain’s T36 Paralympic champion Paul Blake and Egypt’s 100m T37 Paralympic silver medallist Mostafa Mohamed. He lines up against the likes of Saudi Arabia’s Saud Alwani and Tunisia’s Taieb Rajhi in Tunis.

Men’s 1,500m T38

Abbes Saidi notched up one of Tunisia’s seven gold medals at Rio 2016 – his country finished an impressive sixth in the Paralympic athletics medals table and there’s no doubt Saidi, who also holds the 1,500m T38 world title, will be hoping for a strong performance on home soil.

Men’s 1,500m T46

Algeria’s reigning Paralympic and world champion Samir Nouioua is the stand-out performer in the men’s 1,500m T46 class in Tunis. The middle-distance man has medalled at the last four Paralympic Games and has five world titles to his name. The race is on already this year however, as Australian Michael Roeger broke the world record in February.

Men’s shot put F32

Ten Para athletes will line up in the shot put F32 in Tunis, including Algerians Lahouari Bahlaz, Mounir Bakir and Karim Betina. Bahlaz won Paralympic silver last year, while his teammate Betina won silver at Doha 2015 to add to his world titles in 2006 and 2011. Bakir should not be dismissed either – he has two Paralympic bronze medals to his name. Expect a tough competition.

Women’s 400m T37

Tuinisa’s former Paralympic champion Neda Bahi returned home from Brazil with Paralympic bronze last year, having lost her title to Great Britain’s Georgie Hermitage. Bahi, 25, will have to be in superb form to get the better of the Brit this year – a strong performance in Tunisia would provide a welcome foundation for the rest of the season.

Women’s 1,500m T13

Tunisia’s Paralympic champion Somaya Bousaid set a new personal best of 4:21.45 to finish a convincing nine seconds clear of the field at Rio 2016. Bousaid’s time was over 10 seconds faster than the time she took to win the world title in 2015 – the question is, how much faster can the 36-year-old go this year? The current world record of 4:05.27 was set by the USA’s Marla Runyan back in 1999.

Women’s shot put F41

Five finalists from Rio 2016 will line up in Tunis but there’s no doubt three-time Paralympic champion Raoua TIili will start as favourite. The 27-year-old Tunisian won this event at the Grand Prix 12 months ago with a best of 9.60m. Fellow Tunisians Amaimia Fathia and Samar Ben Koelleb, who finished second and third respectively at last year’s Grand Prix, line up once again. Ben Koelleb won Paralympic silver behind Tlili but will have to be at her very best to challenge for first place.

Women’s discus F57

Reigning Paralympic and world champion Nassima Saifi is yet another of Algeria’s elite Para athletes who will compete in Tunis. The 28-year-old faces her compatriot Safia Djelal, who broke the javelin F57 world record mark in Dubai last month.

Competition at the Tunis Grand Prix takes place between 13-15 April.