The biggest Para sport event of the year before the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games kicks off on Tuesday (1 June) in Poland. Nearly 700 athletes from 44 nations are set to compete until Saturday (5) at the Bydgoszcz 2021 European Para Athletics Championships.
The Zdzistaw Krzyszkowiak Stadium will host 86 track, 20 jump, and 58 throw events. It will be the seventh edition of the Europeans and the first to take place in Poland.
The hosts will be hoping to emulate their Berlin 2018 success as they topped the medals table in the last European Championships in Germany with 26 gold medals – six ahead of second-place Great Britain.
There will be plenty of stars among the visitors too. One of the biggest names competing in track events in Bydgoszcz will be France’s vision impaired sprinter Timothee Adolphe.
He is the reigning European champion in the men’s 100m T11, as well as the world champion in the men’s 400m T11 from Dubai 2019.
“I am happy to be back at a big competition. It is a great test just before the Tokyo Paralympics. That is why we take this competition very seriously. I am ready”, said the French sprinter.
Adolphe will be in action on Wednesday in the 400m and on Saturday in the 100m.
The European Championships was originally scheduled to take place in 2020 but had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For that reason, World Para Athletics and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) implemented a series of measures in accordance with local and national health authorities.
Alongside the other 43 delegations, Bydgoszcz 2021 will also host refugee Para athlete Alia Issa.
She is a prospective athlete of the Refugee Paralympic Team for Tokyo 2020 and will compete on Thursday (3 June) in the women’s club throw F32.
“I am happy to be at the Euros after a good competition in the Grand Prix in Nottwil. I am also very enthusiastic because it will be my first participation at the European Championships”, said the 20-years-old.
Issa is coming to Bydgoszcz with a new personal best set in Switzerland in May at 16.40m. She will be the only refugee athlete in Bydgoszcz.
“It fills me with pride to be representing the refugee athletes. My family and my coaches are also very proud of my achievement.”
Poland set to start with gold
Issa is training in Poland since Saturday. Having lived in Greece for her whole life, she is used to the warm weather which accompanied her in Bydgoszcz.
“The weather in Poland is similar to the one we have in Greece. It is something familiar for us. It is also a great feeling to compete against so many athletes after a long time”, added Issa.
There will be 29 medals up for grabs on day one and Poland will be hoping for some home gold right at the beginning of the morning session.
Faustyna Kotlowska is the world record holder in the women’s discus throw F64 and will be trying to take her first major international title following bronze medals at Dubai 2019 and Berlin 2018.
The biggest star on the first day of competition in Bydgoszcz will be in action in the evening session. Germany’s four-time Paralympic champion Markus Rehm will be looking at his fourth European gold in the men’s long jump.
Three years ago, he was responsible for one of the 15 world records broken at Berlin 2018. That 8.48m-mark still stands but Rehm showed he is in top form ahead of the Euros as he fell short of beating his own record jumping 8.47m at a national competition in Germany in May.
The European Championships will be live-streamed on the World Para Athletics website and Facebook page with geo-block restrictions in Spain, Poland, and the United Kingdom.
Live results will be available on the European Championships website.