"The Swiss are particularly strong at wheelchair racing and it will be good to race against them. I think it will very much come down to what happens on the day. A lot of wheelchair racing is down to the tactics, especially over the distances that I do."
Switzerland’s world marathon champion Manuela Schaer is the woman to beat in the T54 wheelchair racing class heading into August’s IPC Athletics European Championships in Swansea according to Great Britain’s Jade Jones.
Swansea 2014 will be Jones’ first Europeans having made her international debut as a 15-year-old at the 2011 World Championships in New Zealand. Now aged 18 and a “veteran” of London 2012 and two World Championships, she is well aware of her likely challengers when she takes to the track at Swansea University between 18-23 August.
“I think there are a lot of strong competitors,” explained Jones. “The Swiss are particularly strong at wheelchair racing and it will be good to race against them. I think it will very much come down to what happens on the day. A lot of wheelchair racing is down to the tactics, especially over the distances that I do.
“Manuela [Schaer] is definitely the woman to beat. She is on form ridiculously this year. But there is also Edith Wolff who is really strong as well. But then there is also Shelley [Woods] and a number of young athletes coming through.”
In May, Jones took part in the IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Nottwil, Switzerland, finishing third in both the 800m and 1,500m behind winner Schaer. She said competing against some of the best wheelchair racers in the world was a valuable experience.
“Competing against them before a big event is always good because then you know what they are capable of and how you can use that to your advantage. It’s always good to get a feel for it.
“Manuela is really on form this year. She’s worked so hard over the winter, so it’s going to be hard. I think on the day it very much depends to the tactics of the races, so you never know so. We’ll see!”
At last year’s World Championships in Lyon, France, Jones finished 8th in the 800m, 10th in the 1,500m and 8th in the 5,000m, races which were all won by the USA’s Tatyana McFadden. Schaer took silver in the 800m and 5,000m whilst her teammate Wolf took bronze in the 800m and 1,500m.
In Swansea Jones is targeting the finals in all three distances and hoping to make the top five in each race. However, if you consider that she was the third fastest European in both the 1,500m and 5,000m in Lyon last year, a podium finish in Swansea is not out of the question.
“That kind of scares me a little bit. I’m not going to lie. Just thinking about it is scary,” said Jones of the likelihood of winning her first senior international medal in Swansea. “My coach said that to me before and I’m like ‘I don’t want to think about it!’ I just want to focus on getting out there and seeing what I can do instead of putting pressure on myself to win a medal.”
Jones will be one of 560 athletes from 39 countries competing at the Swansea 2014 IPC Athletics European Championships.
Media accreditation for the event is also now open via http://www.paralympic.org/swansea-2014/media-centre/accreditation.