“It’s fantastic to have another world class competition in Britain so that my family, friends and amazing fans can come and see me do what I do best. "
More than 25 medallists from last year’s Paralympic Games will line up at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, UK, this weekend (Saturday 29 June) for the Sainsbury’s IPC Athletics Grand Prix Final.
The event marks the end of this year’s IPC Grand Prix series which has seen athletes take to the track and field in Dubai, Beijing, Sao Paulo, Grosseto, Arizona and Berlin.
The meeting will be pivotal for many of the world’s best para-athletes as they fine tune their preparations ahead of the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships, which take place in Lyon, France in just over three weeks’ time.
Great Britain’s Jonnie Peacock stormed into the history books last year when he won 100m T43/44 gold in London, and he lines up over 100m in Birmingham hoping to make his mark against three of the world’s top ranked 10 T44 sprinters over 100m this year. This includes teenager Felix Streng of Germany, who recently had a strong showing at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Berlin.
Richard Whitehead won Paralympic 200m T42 gold ahead of Heinrich Popow 10 months ago, and the pair will do battle once again in the 200m on Saturday. The Briton tops the world rankings but Popow – the reigning World and Paralympic 100m T42 champion - has recently shown he is in great shape. In Berlin two weeks ago, Popow ran the 100m in 12.12 seconds, a world record time, but it didn’t stand due to a strong wind.
Paralympic and World bronze medallist David Prince was in scintillating form at the US Nationals, setting new world records in the 200m and 400m T44 distances. The 29-year-old returns to the UK hoping to show why he is the man to beat over one lap.
Meanwhile all three Paralympic medallists from the men’s 800m T37 will line up at the Alexander Stadium, with Ireland’s World and Paralympic champion, and world record holder, Michael McKillop out to maintain his winning form over Tunisia’s Mohamed Charmi and Australia’s Brad Scott.
In the 1,500m T53/54 all eyes will be on home favourite David Weir, four-time gold medallist in London, as he takes on a field including Canada’s marathon world record holder Josh Cassidy, and the man who picked up Paralympic silver behind him in the 800m and the marathon, Marcel Hug of Switzerland.
And the battles for supremacy continue on the field too, with Great Britain’s discus F44 World Champion Dan Greaves and US Paralympic Champion Jeremy Campbell coming face to face in one of para-athletics’ most enduring rivalries.
There’s no let-up in excitement and talent in the women’s events either. Great Britain’s Sophie Kamlish finished second in Berlin over 100m and will be hoping the home crowds will help her in a top-class T43-46 field that includes US National Champion Katie Walker.
Great Britain’s Paralympic 200m T34 gold medallist Hannah Cockroft will also be hoping she can give the local support something to cheer about as she lines up against the women who picked up silver and bronze behind her in London, the Netherlands’ Amy Siemons and Desiree Vranken:
“It’s fantastic to have another world class competition in Britain so that my family, friends and amazing fans can come and see me do what I do best.
“Obviously my main aim is to win and if the home crowd is anything like it was in London, then I know they will carry me along.
“But I really just want to have fun and see where I’m at in the lead up to World Championships in Lyon in two week’s time.”
The 1,500m T53/54 features a high-class field including marathon gold and silver medallists in London, Shirley Reilly and Shelly Woods, as well as Switzerland’s Edith Wolf, who clinched Paralympic silver over 1,500m in London.
And in the women’s F42/43/44 long jump, Iris Pruysen will be hoping she can get the better of the likes of Great Britain’s Stefanie Reid. The Dutchwoman finished an agonising fourth at the Paralympic Games last year, with Reid taking silver, but Pruysen has impressed already this season, winning at the Great City Games in Manchester, and more recently in Berlin with a best of 5.21m.
The Sainsbury’s IPC Athletics Grand Prix Final will see athletes face off for one last time ahead of the World Championships being held in Lyon, France from 19-28 July. With around 1,300 competitors from 90 countries set to attend, the World Champs will be the biggest gathering of international athletes since London 2012.
Tickets for the Grand Prix Final are still available via British Athletics. Channel 4 will also be broadcasting all the action live on 29 June.