Walid Ktila has forged a reputation as one of the most formidable wheelchair racers of all time, and he kick starts his 2018 campaign at the World Para Athletics Grand Prix in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, this week (13-16 March).
Ktila has dominated the men’s T34 class since winning his first Paralympic title in 2012.
The 32-year-old claimed a clean sweep of four gold medals at last year’s World Championships, but the talented Tunisian is taking nothing for granted when he lines up in the Middle East.
“I defended my four titles at London 2017 and it gives me confidence, but also it forces me to be vigilant in future competitions,” said Ktila, who won global gold in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m T34 last July.
In fact, he has achieved a perfect four out of four gold medals at the last three World Championships, starting in Lyon in 2013. But that doesn’t make the pressure on him to succeed any less.
“Yes, I won the four gold medals at the last three World Championships and that lets people see me in a high level,” continued Ktila.
“But maybe people don’t accept my failure and that puts me under pressure. I'm asked to do better, to train hard, to try to keep my level.”
Of course, amongst the many world and Paralympic titles, it’s not all been plain sailing.
At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games Ktila lost out on 800m gold to Mohamed Alhammadi - the Emirati went on to lower Ktila’s 800m T34 world record 10 months ago.
Then there’s 21-year-old Australian Rheed McCracken, who broke Ktila’s 100m T34 world record last year and won a silver and bronze behind Ktila in London.
It is results like that that help keep the Tunisian grounded.
“All wheelchair racing participants, including Alhammadi and McCracken would be a threat to me, every race has its conditions and its surprises, I don’t have to think that I'm the strongest to win,” he acknowledged.
As well as winning gold medals, last year Ktila lowered his own 200m and 400m T34 world records. He has lowered the 200m mark five times in five years, most recently clocking 26.18 in Nottwil, Switzerland last June.
He has broken the 400m T34 world record four times since 2013, recording his first sub-50 second time last year.
Ktila acknowledges that those performances, together with his convincing wins in London, means that he is enjoying the best form of his life.
Now he just wants to maintain that form when he lines up in Dubai – and it’s a place where he has excelled in the past, having broken three world records there over two days, back in 2014.
“The Dubai Grand Prix is my first international competition of 2018; it’s the start of the season, everything is good and everything is in order,” said Ktila.
“I’ve already done a training camp in Dubai, my only goal in Dubai is to do my best. As long as I am still a member of the Tunisian national team I still have a lot to accomplish in my career.”
Ktila might say there’s more to come, but the history books already show that he has achieved plenty already.