Records galore as China return in style at Dubai 2023 Grand Prix

Paralympic stars Hug, Debrunner smash their own world records* while Chinese athletes top the medal standings with 42 golds in the four-day GP 02 Mar 2023
A one-armed man jumping in a long jump competition in a blue athletics track
A world champion in the same venue in 2019, China's Hao Wang took gold in the men's long jump T47 at the 2023 GP
ⒸDubai Club for People of Determination
By World Para Athletics

The Dubai 2023 World Para Athletics Grand Prix came to a fitting end with Switzerland’s Marcel Hug claiming his second world record* at the event even as China picked up the maximum gold (42 in total) on their return to international action after two years, at the Dubai Club for People of Determination grounds.

Hug, the six-time Paralympic champion, already had a great time in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) having broken three world records* in the men’s 800m (1:27.77) and 5000m (9:22.72) T54 races at the Sharjah International Open Para Athletics Meeting. And he continued the momentum in Dubai to break the world record* again, this time in the men’s 1500m and 5000m T54 with a timing of 2:43.37 and 9:21.47, respectively.

He stayed calm and focused on his technique to achieve the target he had aimed for in one of the best of conditions. 

“I am very happy to break the world record again. I love racing here and it has been amazing last few weeks. The timings are great too. I look to the big events like the World Championships in Paris,” said Hug. 

The Swiss Silver Bullet was equally matched by his fellow wheelchair racer Catherine Debrunner, who too had an amazing two weeks in UAE. 

Good run continues

Debrunner, who has been nominated for the prestigious Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award, first mesmerised the Sharjah audience with her record-breaking show in the women’s 400m (50.68), 800m (1:41.56) and 1500m (3:09.47) T53 races.

She continued with her incredible form in Dubai for a new world record* in the 400m (50.17s) and set her second-best timing in the 800m (1:42.09 min).

“I am really happy how the year has started; I know I am stronger than last year but it’s actually way better than I had expected. Today I realised once more than being happy and disappointed is very close, because I didn’t have balance in my wheelchair in 100m and so I couldn’t perform the way I wanted. I learnt from it that I have to control my wheelchair right from the start, so that’s good and that’s how sport is," said Debrunner.

Asked what has been working for her in her races, the 27-year-old Tokyo 2020 champion said: “I think, a sum of lot of things. Three years ago, I changed a lot of things – I changed my coach, changed my training, my sitting position etc and it seems to be paying off now.”

Strong show

Meanwhile, Iran Para athletes also displayed a splendid performance with Vajiheh Houshmand breaking the world record* in the women's discus F43 with a throw of 26.91m, while Yasin Khosravi threw the shot put to a distance of 15.46m for the new world record* in the men’s shot put F57. 

Kuwait’s Faisal Sorour impressed with his powerful throw of 16.46m in the men’s shot put F38, enough for another world record* in Dubai.

Overall, the four-day event witnessed high performance from Paralympic stars and surprises from newcomers. On top of the seven world records, 45 regional records were broken in the week as China topped the medals table with 102 medals including 42 gold medals.

Ukraine and Uzbekistan followed China with 11 and 9 gold medals, respectively. Hosts UAE finished in 14th place with six medals, including two golds.

Chinese stranglehold

The Dubai Grand Prix marked China's major international Para athletics event since the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. The 70-strong delegation had plenty of Paralympic champions who lived up to the billing taking gold and Asian records, including Peicheng Deng (men's 100m T36), Liu Li (men's club throw F32, shot put F32), Zhou Guohua (women's 200 m T11), Wen Xiaoyan (women's 200m, long jump T37), Zou Lijuan (women's javelin throw, shot put F34).

The Grand Prix also marked a special return to Dubai for Hao Wang. World champion in the same stadium in 2019, the Chinese took another victory in the men's long jump T47 at the GP (6.67m).  

Among the other Paralympic stars to shine in Dubai were Cuba's Omara Durand in the women's T12 sprint races and Great Britain’s Hannah Cockroft in the women's T34 wheelchair races. 

“It’s been really a start to the year. We are pushing hard to make it to the British team for the World Championships, so wanted to do well here. We are happy with the timing; it's a lot quicker than expected at the start of the year,” said Cockroft, who claimed the gold in the women’s 800m T34 (1:51.46) ahead of Kare Adenegan (2:01.62) and Fabienne Andre (2:14.07) for a British podium sweep.

Alhammadi the star, again

For the host nation, their Paralympic star Mohammed Alhammadi produced an impressive performance to defeat his arch-rival Walid Ktila from Tunisia to take gold and a new Asian record in the men's 400m T43 on the third day of the competition.

Alhammadi, Tokyo 2020 Paralympic silver and bronze medallist, raced in 49.36 to triumph ahead of Ktila (49.46) and Canada’s Austin Smeenk (49.97).

“I am very happy to set an Asian record. This has boosted my confidence looking ahead to the season which has many important events including the World Championships and Asian Para Games. The 800m race was more about technique and I am happy to test it in that race. I will sit with my coach and decide on the work we need to do accordingly,” said the 37-year-old Alhammadi.

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Dubai 2023 Grand Prix had a participation of around 600 athletes from 60 nations.

Full result of the Dubai 2023 GP can be found here.

*All records subject to ratification by World Para Athletics.