“It truly is unique to have the best in the world from various disabilities come together in one race. Something I believe will bring a lot of excitement to the day. It is such a great way to mark a year to go until the start of the greatest sporting event on earth."
As part of Rio 2016’s Paralympic Festival to mark one year to go until the Paralympic Games and launch ticket sales, the city’s iconic Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas will stage two 100m races on Monday (7 September) to find the world’s fastest female and male para-athlete.
With just over one month to go until the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, many of the world’s fastest sprinters, including world record holders and Paralympic champions, will go head-to-head in Rio for the title of world’s fastest para-athlete.
Headlining the men’s race will be Ireland’s four-time Paralympic gold medallist Jason Smyth. The visually impaired sprinter’s world record in para-athletics competition stands at 10.46 seconds, however his personal best for the distance is 10.22 which was achieved at an able-bodied meet.
Smyth said: “I am very excited and feel privileged to be in Rio to celebrate Paralympic sport and to be part of the countdown to what will be an incredible Games.
“It truly is unique to have the best in the world from various disabilities come together in one race. Something I believe will bring a lot of excitement to the day. It is such a great way to mark a year to go until the start of the greatest sporting event on earth.
“To me it is humbling to be known as the fastest Paralympian on the planet. I always want that to continue but what I hope is that it shows others that anything is possible if you believe and put in the hard work.
“The people of Rio and the rest of Brazil have an unforgettable 12 months ahead. I am honoured that I have the opportunity to be part of that journey with them.”
Smyth will line-up against Australia’s Evan O’Hanlon, the US duo of Richard Browne and David Browne, and the Brazilian pair of Petrucio Ferreira and Felipe Gomes.
O’Hanlon is the most decorated athlete in the field having won five Paralympic and seven world titles. A sprinter in the T38 cerebral palsy class his world record stands at 10.79 seconds.
The 27-year-old Australian said: “It's an absolute honour to be invited, not only to race for the title of fastest Paralympian in the world, but also to race in Brazil one year before the Games. I feel that travelling to Brazil and racing will put me in a better position to defend my unbeaten run at the Paralympics next year in Brazil.
“Getting to experience the actual journey to Brazil, which is quite long from Australia and then racing once there is a huge advantage. The experience will also give us all a good understanding of what Rio 2016 will be like.
“In terms of the race itself, I'm looking forward to racing the best the IPC has to offer. I’m particularly looking forward to sharing an office with Jason Smyth, the fastest Paralympian ever. He is like the Roger Federer of our sport and the opportunity to race alongside will be an experience in itself.”
Up until last month, world and Paralympic silver medallist Richard Browne was the world record holder in the T44 single below leg amputee class with a time of 10.75 and has not lost a competitive race since July 2013. His teammate David Brown, who runs with a guide as a result of his visual impairment, is the 100m T11 record holder with a time of 10.92 seconds and is coached by Brazilian Olympic 800m champion Joaquim Cruz.
Representing the home nation will be 18-year-old Ferreira, the 200m T47 world record holder, and Gomes, a world silver medallist in the T11 class.
Favourite to win the women’s race will be Cuba’s Omara Durand who, at August’s Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, ran 11.65 seconds over 100m to take the title of world’s fastest female para-athlete. She will compete against teammate Yunidis Castillo, who is Cuba’s most decorated Paralympian and the T47 world record holder with a time of 11.95.
The final athlete in the women’s race is Brazilian favourite Terezinha Guilhermina, a winner of three Paralympic and eight world titles. Her world record for the T11 class stands at 12.01 seconds.
In addition to the 100m races, the Paralympic Festival will also showcase wheelchair basketball, football 5-a-side, sitting volleyball and much more.
There will also be a photography exhibition celebrating Paralympic athletes and an installation displaying technological innovations that have helped improve quality of life for people with impairments.
Tickets for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games will go on-sale on Monday (7 September), with 94 per cent of them costing less than USD 23.