It’s not a tag you usually associate with an American Track and Field team, but Team USA have arrived in Sydney declaring themselves “underdogs” ahead of the 2011 IPC World Athletics Championships in New Zealand later this month.
Using Sydney as their training base this week before touching down in Christchurch for the World Championships from January 21-30, the Americans will compete alongside Paralympic athletes from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, France, Finland and Germany at the final warm up meet on Friday night at Sydney Olympic Park.
And after landing on Australian shores earlier this week, Cathy Sellers, US Paralympics Associate Director of High Performance for Track & Field, said her team is now settled and eager to impress.
Consisting of 51 athletes, Team USA features 23 Paralympians, 12 Paralympic medallists, seven current world record holders and seven members who acquired their disability while serving with the United States Military.
But it is the number of athletes in the team attending their first World Championships, that Sellers attributes to Team USA’s underdog status.
“We have a really young team. We have athletes with some international experience, but they have not been seasoned yet,” Sellers said.
“About half our team have never been to a World Championships. That’s why I consider our team the underdogs, because at this level, you don’t know what’s going to happen until you get into that call room, and get out on that track.”
Among the major medal contenders for the Americans will be wheelchair racers Tatyana McFadden and Jessica Galli – both of whom were multiple medallists at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. Leg-amputee Jerome Singleton is another notable star – touted by South African “bladerunner” Oscar Pistorius as the biggest threat to his chances of winning the 100m in Christchurch.
Pistorius delivered a stunning final 30 metres to overcome Singleton by 0.2 seconds in the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games 100m final in their disability class, and their rematch in Christchurch has been billed as one of the biggest races of the World Championships.
Watch Singleton, McFadden and Galli take on Australia’s best at Sydney Olympic Park on Friday night at Sydney Olympic Park from 6pm-9pm.
Entry is free.