"This race means a lot to me because I have had such a tough time since competing in Beijing. It feels great to be back to this shape and have a chance to compete in London."
It was a day of record breaking performances at the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Trials - Track & Field in Indianapolis. Amid record high temperatures at Michael A. Carroll Stadium on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Jessica Galli (28.93) set a world record in the women's 200m T53 while Raymond Martin won the men's 200m T52 with a world record 30.18. Two other world records and 14 Americas records were also set on the first day of competition.
"This race means a lot to me because I have had such a tough time since competing in Beijing. It feels great to be back to this shape and have a chance to compete in London," Galli said. She won five medals at the 2008 Paralympic Games including gold in the 400m T53 and silvers in the 100m, 200m and 800m.
"I have great teammates at the University of Illinois," Galli said. "One of the greatest gifts is that my teammates challenge me. When you train with the best athletes every day, they make you better. They helped me get back to this level."
While the U.S. Paralympic Trials - Track & Field will help determine the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team, the event also includes athletes from 14 other countries. Highlighting the international accomplishments, Australia's Todd Hodgetts (15.97m) set a world record in the men's shot put F20. Great Britain's Hannah Crockroft (31.23) finished the women's 200m T34 also in a world record.
Blake Leeper (21.70) furthered his bid for the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team by setting the Americas record in the men's 200m T43/44. Jim Bob Bizzell (22.54), the reigning Paralympic silver medalist in the men's 200m T44, took second while Jerome Singleton (22.80) finished third. All three will also compete Saturday in the 100m T43/44, an event won by Singleton at the 2011 International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships.
"I am really excited with that time but there is still a lot of work to do before London," Leeper said. "I'm going to go back home and work on making some things. When London comes, I want to be ready to take on [Oscar Pistorius]."
South Africa's Pistorius, the "Blade Runner", won gold in the 200m T44 at the World Championships last year. He is also the reigning Paralympic Games Champion in the 100m, 200m and 400m while Leeper is seeking his first Paralympic Games spot.
"It's what I think about every day when I am on the track at the U.S. Olympic Training Centre in Chula Vista where I'm living," he said. "I'm training two or three times a day, six days a week. I've been working really hard, trying to earn my spot in London, and it's really good to see these results."
Rudy Garcia-Tolson ran 27.60 in the men's 200m T42, edging out Shaquille Vance and Kourtney Clemons.
While records fell in several events, Jeremy Campbell was just shy of setting the men's discus T44 world record in three consecutive competitions. He reached 62.52m on his final throw of the evening in Indianapolis, short of the 63.45m he threw at the Endeavor Games in Edmond, Okla.
Other victors from day one included Centra Mazyck (20.64m), who won the women's javelin F33/34/52-58 with a throw, and Scott Winkler (11.06m) in the men's shot put F54/55/56.
The competition continues on Saturday and Sunday.
The 2012 U.S. Paralympic Track & Field Team will be announced on 1 July. In conjunction with the selection procedures adopted last year, U.S. Paralympic Trials - Track & Field helps determine the 54 athletes who will compete for the United States at the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Complete results from Indianapolis can be found at USParalympics.org.