With the focus this year on July’s World Para Athletics Championships which take place at the Olympic Park in London, Great Britain, here are 10 reigning world champions who could be under threat:
1. Cuiqing Liu – 100, 200m, 400m T11
Liu won a hat-trick of golds at Doha 2015 but she couldn’t match Libby Clegg at Rio 2016, losing out in the 100m and 200m T11 to the Briton, who was re-classified to the T11 class last year. Clegg’s impressive performances as she adapted to running with a blindfold suggest she will be the stand-out favourite come London 2017.
2. Yunidis Castillo – 200m T47
Cuba’s multiple world and Paralympic champion was blighted by injury at Rio 2016, and had to withdraw from the 200m and 400m T47 after suffering an injury in the 100m final. The USA’s Deja Young duly stepped up and won double Paralympic gold; at only 20-years-old Young could be the face of the future in the women’s T47 sprints.
3. Angie Ballard – 200m, 400m T53
After a highly impressive 2015 season which included world records and world titles, expectations were high for the Australian wheelchair racer at Rio 2016. But China’s Lisha Huang (100m T53) and Hongzhuan Zhou (400m and 800m T53) put paid to Ballard’s hopes of topping the Paralympic podium, and will surely be a force to be reckoned with again in 2017.
4. Qing Wu – shot put F36
Winner of the shot put F36 at Doha 2015, Wu came up against Germany’s Birgit Kober at Rio 2016, and had to settle for silver, despite throwing a season’s best. Kober, a former F34 world and Paralympic champion, finished nearly one metre clear of the field and should continue to prove tough opposition for her competitors.
5. Walid Ktila – 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m T34
The T34 wheelchair racer was the most successful Para athlete at Doha 2015, winning four individual titles from 100m through to 800m. But he suffered a significant defeat at Rio 2016, losing out to the UAE’s Mohamed Hammadi over two laps. With a rare loss now to his name, his rivals will be spurred on to greater success.
6. Michal Derus – 100m T47
The Polish sprinter came to the fore in 2013, winning 100m T46 gold at the World Championships in Lyon, France. He repeated that success at Doha 2015, winning the 100m T47. Since then, Petrucio Ferreira has cemented his place as the one to beat, winning Paralympic gold in world record time. Derus faces a tough test in 2017 when he lines up against the young Brazilian.
7. David Behre – 400m T44
The German T43 sprinter won 400m T44 gold at Doha 2015, with fellow T43 Para athlete Hunter Woodhall winning silver. But the American has improved significantly in the last 18 months, as did New Zealand’s Paralympic champion Liam Malone. Behre will have to work hard to ensure he doesn’t get left behind in 2017.
8. Paul Blake – 400m T36 (G), 800m T36 (S)
The Briton lined up in both the 400m and 800m T36 at Rio 2016, winning gold over one lap. But he met his match in the 800m when he came up against Australia’s James Turner, who smashed the world record to win Paralympic gold as he took on the race from the gun. Turner’s performance was so impressive he will be one to watch out for at London 2017.
9. Jeremy Campbell – discus F44
Discus F44 world champion in 2013 and again at Doha 2015, Campbell was no match for his compatriot David Blair in 2016. Blair smashed Campbell’s four-year-old world record last year before winning his first Paralympic title with an even bigger throw. Blair won world silver in 2015; don’t be surprised if he tops the podium in London.
10. David Casinos – discus F11
The Spaniard has enjoyed a long reign as discus F11 world champion, winning in 2006, 2011, 2013 and 2015. But his spell at the top of the podium now looks under threat with the emergence of talents such as Brazil’s Alessandro Silva and Italy’s Oney Tapia, who won Paralympic gold and silver ahead of their more experienced rival in 2016.
The London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships will take place between 14-23 July. To purchase tickets, please visit London 2017 website.