Van Weeghel excited by longer distances in Doha

The Dutch world and European 200m T54 champion is stepping up to some of the middle distance events at this month’s IPC Athletics World Championships. 06 Oct 2015
Uppor body of a man in orange shirt

Kenny van Weeghel, Netherlands, in the men's 400m T54 at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.


“For the 1,500m it will be a really big challenge. If I get to the final we will have achieved our goal, and every place we get extra it’s great. Towards Rio I hope to get even stronger and hopefully get a medal.”

Kenny van Weeghel likes a challenge. The Dutchman is renowned as one of the world’s best T54 sprinters - but he is not content with that.

The reigning world and European 200m T54 champion has set his sights on conquering the longer distances – and he is starting that campaign with a vengeance at the IPC Athletics World Championships, which take place in Doha, Qatar, from 21-31 October.

Van Weeghel will take on the 800m and 1,500m as well as his usual 100m, 200m and 400m events, and it is a challenge he is relishing.

“I make the change because I needed a challenge again,” explained van Weeghel.

“It’s two-part really. Firstly, I always wanted to do the longer distances. Rio could be my last Games; maybe not, but the chance it will be one of my last is quite high. So if I wanted to do it I have to do it ahead of these Games.

“Secondly, I have had a lot of years of wheelchair racing, and most of these years have been in the 100m, 200m and 400m. Adding the longer events has helped me get some new perspective again; a new challenge.”

Of course there were signs last year that the 35-year-old had already made that transition without too many difficulties. He saw off a world-class field including Germany’s Marc Schuh and Switzerland’s Marcel Hug to claim European 400m T54 gold, having won world bronze over one lap behind the pair in Lyon the year before.

He also won European 800m silver behind Hug, to add to 100m silver behind Finland’s world and Paralympic champion Leo-Pekka Tahti, and of course the 200m title – a distance he has dominated in recent years.

For van Weeghel, that success helped reaffirm that the choices he had made after the London 2012 Paralympic Games had been correct.

“Swansea proved the decision that we made after London was on a good path. That’s good to know. We wanted to train for longer distances, and of course you hope it doesn’t affect the shorter distances too much,” he explained.

“Good results really help you to get some self-confidence on the path you are taking.”

But the global stage in Doha will pose many more questions.

“The 400m and the 800m are relatively safe distances for me, I think for the 800m it is possible to put in a good performance. The 1,500m will be a little bit more of a challenge for me at the moment.

“I think because I really enjoy the new things I hope to make good decisions. Of course I am relatively new to the whole thing, so I can still make mistakes other athletes maybe can see sooner.

“But I think because I am fast in my acceleration when people accelerate its easier to pick up - and that could be a strong point for me.”

Van Weeghel will have to hope that his years of experience as a sprinter – his first major global event was at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics Games – will help stand him in good stead, because the competition in the T54 class is fierce.

Schuh tops the 400m T54 world rankings this year, having clocked 45.40 in Arbon, Switzerland, back in May. In the 800m and 1,500m, the likes of multiple world champion Marcel Hug and Paralympic champion David Weir are part of a stellar field.

“Marc posted very good results over 400m this year, going below 46 seconds again, so I can’t say I’m scared but it’s a good motivation to be alert and put even more effort in to the preparation.”

“For the 100m, 200m, and 400m the only thing that matters is driving fast. In the 800m and 1,500m it is more of a game with more aspects that can make or lose the competition. For the 800m, I think my chances are good to get a good result, at least I hope to get a good place in the final.

“For the 1,500m it will be a really big challenge. If I get to the final we will have achieved our goal, and every place we get extra it’s great. Towards Rio I hope to get even stronger and hopefully get a medal.”

As for the 200m, the defending champion still believes he has got what it takes to clinch world gold once again.

“I think I’m a little bit less explosive but I still think it’s possible to be the best. That still is my goal to achieve in Doha.”

Around 1,300 athletes from 100 countries are set to compete at Doha 2015, between 21-31 October.