The fourth World Para Athletics Grand Prix takes place in Rieti, Italy from 5-7 May as Para athletes from around the world continue their preparations for this year’s World Para Athletics Championships, which take place in just 10 weeks’ time.
The event doubles as the Italian Open Championships and takes place at the city’s Raul Guidobladi Stadium.
Here are some of the key names to look out for over the next three days of competition:
Luis Goncalves (T12) - Portugal
Reigning world champion in the 400m T12, the 29-year-old finished third at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games with a personal best of 49.54 seconds. The Portuguese athlete will undoubtedly have to be at his best again this year to stand a chance of defending his global crown.
Mohamed Berrahal (T51) - Algeria
The Algerian has had a terrific start to his season, setting new African records over 200m and 400m (T51) at the Dubai Grand Prix in March. Silver medallist in the 100m T51 at Rio 2016, Berrahal will be hoping to go one better at this year’s World Championships; a strong performance in Italy, where he races in the 100m, 200m, and 400m, will undoubtedly be part of his season-long plan.
Oney Tapia (F11) - Italy
After a winning performance in Italy’s televised ‘Dancing with the Stars’ competition, the 41-year-old Paralympic discus F11 silver medallist has put his dancing shoes to one side as he focuses on the discus and shot put. European champion on home soil last year, Tapia is looking to improve his discus personal best of 42.56m. A key target will surely be Alessandro Rodrigo’s new world record mark of 44.66m which the Brazilian Paralympic champion threw in April.
Manolis Stefanoudakis (F54) - Greece
Another Para athlete who has already shown impressive form this season is Greek thrower Manolis Stefanoudakis. The 34-year-old won his first Paralympic title last year in the javelin F54 to add to the world title he won in 2015, and with Grand Prix wins in Dubai and Tunis already under his belt this year he will take some beating in Italy.
Tom Habscheid (F42) - Luxembourg
Inspired to take up Para athletics after watching London 2012, the 30-year-old won his first major medal at the 2014 European Championships, finishing second behind Great Britain’s Aled Davies in the discus F42. Results went the same way at last year’s European Championships in Grosseto, Italy, and after Davies recently threw a world lead 54.85m it will be fascinating to see how Habscheid responds.
Ilse Hayes (T13) – South Africa
This week’s Grand Prix in Italy will be Hayes’ last as she plans to retire after July’s World Championships. Injury put paid to Haye’s training in the first couple of months of the year but now the 31-year-old six-time world champion is back on track, ready to take on the 100m and 200m in Rieti. Hayes tops the world rankings in the shorter sprint after clocking 12.40 in South Africa in April.
Assunta Legnante (F11) - Italy
Legnante was one of five Italians to medal at last year’s Paralympic Games, winning shot put F12 gold to add to her world and European titles. The 38-year-old was born with congenital glaucoma in both eyes - her sight worsened in 2009 and she lost the vision in her right eye. Prior to that Legnante represented Italy at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing; she went on to compete at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London - the first female Italian track and field athlete to compete at both the Paralympic and Olympic Games.
Pamela LeJean (F53) – Canada
The 32-year-old competes in the F53 field events and made her international debut at the 2013 World Championships in Lyon, France, where she won shot put bronze. Silver in the shot put F53 then followed at the 2015 World Championships but the Canadian finished an agonising fourth at Rio 2016, just outside the medals.