World record among top performances in Tunis

Home nation and Azerbaijan impress on day two of the Grand Prix 30 Jun 2019
A female sprinter next to her guide on an athletics track
Tunis GP winner Elena Chebanu of Azerbaijan competing at the Rio 2016 Games
ⒸAlexandre Loureiro/Getty Images
By World Para Athletics

“Every race is an experience for me - experiencing competition in different cities and different cultures makes me stronger and better and I’m really happy to be here.”

Tunisia’s success continued on Saturday (29 June), day two of the Tunis Grand Prix as Wassim Mtarrab set a new world record in the field, while Turkey’s Oguz Abulut and Azerbaijan’s Elena Chebanu were among those making their presence known on the track.

Mtarrab, 23, threw a massive 20.12m in the third round of the men’s discus F51/32 to add nearly two metres on to the previous F32 world record set by Greek Athanasios Konstantinidis in 2017.

The Tunisian was one of many impressive performances by the host nation under the hot African sun, but Para athletes from around the world also made a big impression.

Turkey’s European 400m T12 champion Oguz Akbulut (23.00) stormed home to win the men’s 200m T12, and the 27-year-old now believes that he will be ready to improve on the bronze medal he won at the last World Championships when he lines up over one lap at Dubai 2019 in just over four months’ time.

“I will get better and better in every tournament. I want to be in the top two in Dubai,” said Akbulut, who finished third behind Morocco’s Mahdi Afri and Portugal’s Luis Goncalves in the 400m T12 at London 2017.

“I’m going to be better in the World Championships – I’m not in my full strength yet, this is a step for me and the next Grand Prix in Poland will also be a good experience for me.

“Every race is an experience for me - experiencing competition in different cities and different cultures makes me stronger and better and I’m really happy to be here.”

Chebanu shines

Azerbaijan’s Paralympic silver medallist Elena Chebanu claimed two wins – first in the long jump T11/12 where she opened with 5.21m – her best leap of the competition, then later in the 200m T12, where she destroyed the rest of the field, crossing the line in a world leading 24.99.

Tunisia’s Yassine Gharbi (25.47) notched up another win on home turf, racing home to win the men’s 200m T54, and he was suitably pleased with his performance on the Rades Olympic Stadium track.

The 29-year-old, who won 200m and 400m T54 gold at London 2017, is targeting titles in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m T54 at this year’s World Championships in Dubai, UAE – although he admits competition will be tough.

“(Daniel) Romanchuk and Richard (Chiassaro),” smiled Gharbi. “In the 400m we are equal but after this the one that works the hardest will win.”

In the day’s middle distance races, there were wins for Bulgaria’s Hristiyan Stoyanov (3:56.25) in the 1500m T46; Morocco’s Aissa Bentaleb (4:27.91), who held off his compatriot Hafid Aharak to win the 1500m T36/37; Tunisia’s Achraf Lahouel (3:53.1) in the 1500m T13/20 and his countryman Rouay Jebabli (3:56.86), who claimed the scalp of Paralympic 5000m bronze medallist Bilel Aloui (3:59.20) to win the 1500m T11/12.

“I started today to test myself to see if I can compete in Dubai, to get the gold medal. I hope I am well prepared – I have not raced at a World Championships before. I will work very hard to get there and do my best there,” said Jebabli.

Field golds

Back in the field and Morocco’s Hind Frioua won the women’s club throw F31/32/51 with a best effort of 16.60m – just 17 centimetres off the world record – while teammate Fouzia El Kassioui (6.28m) claimed first place in the women’s shot put F33/34.

Iraq’s throwers also impressed – Ahmed Naas soaring to the top of the world rankings in the javelin F40 thanks to his second-round throw of 38.12m in the F40/41 competition.

There were wins too for Syria’s Mohamad Mohamad (43.05m) in the javelin F56/57 and Norway’s Ida Nesse (30.85m) in the women’s discus F42/44/46; Tunisia’s former Paralympic champion Faouzi Rzig (34.26m) won the javelin F33/34; three-time world champion Hania Aidi (19.48m) won the women’s javelin F53/54/55 and Luxemburg’s world silver medallist Tom Habscheid (42.84m) secured his second win in Tunis, this time in the discus F11/13/63.

Competition at the Tunis Grand Prix concludes on Sunday.