Dubai kicks off World Championship year

The World Para Athletics Grand Prix season gets underway in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Sunday (24 February) with more than 430 athletes from nearly 50 countries set to take part in the first of eight Grand Prix this year.

The event takes place at the athletics stadium of the Dubai Club for People of Determination – the same venue that will host the 2019 World Championships in just over eight months’ time.

Three female Para athletes from Saudi Arabia will compete at the Dubai Grand Prix – the first time that women from the Middle Eastern country will compete in the series.

Sarah Aljumaah lines up in the 100m T36 and the shot put F36; Amal Alahmari takes on the discus and shot put F37 and Zahra Al Tala competes in the discus and club throw F51.

Sprints

Having announced his retirement from athletics after winning Commonwealth gold last April, Australian Evan O’Hanlon is back on the track with his sights now set on defending his world title in November.

The 30-year-old, currently living in the Czech Republic with his wife and young daughter, took up bobsleigh last year but clearly can’t leave the track behind him just yet.

Another Australian to watch out for is Chad Perris, who lines up in the 100m T13, while Scott Reardon will face his big rival Atsushi Yamamoto of Japan in the men’s 100m T63.

All three London 2017 world medallists - Rheed McCracken, Mohamed Alhammadi, and Walid Ktila -take on the men’s 100m T34 with the trio also contesting the 800m T34 together, while in the men’s 100m T51, Peter Genyn, Toni Piispanen and Mohamed Berrahal do battle once again.

Top British sprinters Sophie Hahn (T38) and Maria Lyle (T35) open their season in Dubai. Hahn faces Germany’s Lindy Ave, double silver medallist behind the Briton at Berlin 2018.

Turkey’s T53 racer Hamide Dogangun (Kurt), who won two European titles last year, is also in Dubai.

Distance

The men’s T54 field features the likes of Marcel Hug – who races the 100m, 400m, 800m, 1500m and 5,000m – and Tunisia’s Yassine Gharbi, who was in winning form at the Sharjah Open earlier this week. Germany’s Alhassane Balde and Japanese duo Tomoki Suzuki and Sho Watanabe also line up.

Australia’s T53 wheelchair athlete Madison de Rozario – a double gold medallist at last year’s Commonwealth Games – takes on the 800m, 1500m and 5,000m T54. Watch out for her teammate Angie Ballard too.

Algeria’s Paralympic and world champion Abdelatif Baka competes in the men’s 1,500m and 5,000m T13 – his first time racing the longer distance. Compatriots and fellow world medallists Samir Nouioua (T46) and Madjid Djemai (T37) also compete in Dubai.

Great Britain’s Paralympic champion Paul Blake returns to action after injury last year in the 400m and the 800m T36.

Field

Fresh from winning gold at the IWAS World Games earlier this month, Algeria’s six-time world champion Lahouari Bahlaz looks the one to beat in the men’s shot put F32, while Iraq’s Paralympic and world champion Garrah Tnaiash heads the field in the shot put F40.

Mounia Gasmi also won gold at the IWAS World Games and takes on the women’s shot put and club throw F32.

World gold and silver medallists Kamel Kardjena of Algeria and Germany’s Daniel Scheil go head-to-head again in the shot put F33. The women’s event features Algeria’s reigning world champion Asmahane Boudjadar.

All three world medallists in the men’s javelin F54 are in action – Greek Manolis Stefanoudakis, Iraqi Hamed Amiri and Belarusian Aliaksandr Tryputs, who won earlier this week in Sharjah.

Vanessa Low returns to action in the women’s long jump T61 after time out recovering from a back injury; South Africa’s young star Ntando Mahlangu competes in the men’s long jump as well as the 200m T61.

In the javelin events, watch out for New Zealand’s Holly Robinson (F46) and Norway’s Ida Nesse (F44), who will be hoping to continue her run of form after setting a new European record of 35.74m in Sharjah.