The 2017 World Para athletics season kicks off on Monday March 20 with the 9th Fazaa International meeting – the Dubai Grand Prix, taking place over four days in the UAE.
More than 370 athletes from 40 countries – including 50 Rio 2016 medallists – will line up at the season opener which takes place at the Dubai Club for the Disabled.
The event is the first of a series of nine Grand Prix taking place around the world this year as preparations build up for the London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships in July.
Here is a guide to the main events to watch this week in the Emirates:
Men’s 100m T33
Men’s 200m T11
Namibia’s Ananais Shikongo has shown terrific form over the last 18 months, winning his first Paralympic title last year in 22.44 – just 0.03 seconds outside David Brown of the USA’s 2014 world record. Shikongo has high hopes for this year’s World Championships and if his impressive form continues he will undoubtedly be one to watch.
Men’s 800m T34
Tunisia’s reigning world champion and world record holder Walid Ktila goes head-to-head with newly crowned Paralympic champion and local star Mohamed Al Hammadi of the UAE. Their contest will provide a fascinating taste of what is to come for the rest of the year. Ktila finished Doha 2015 at the top of the individual medals table with four golds; last year however Al Hammadi showed that his rival is not invincible.
Men’s 1,500m T13
Algeria’s Abdellatif Baka hit the headlines at Rio 2016 when he clinched 1,500m T13 gold with a new world record 3:48.29. In fact the top four finishers were all faster than the time it took for Matthew Centrowitz to win the Olympic title weeks earlier. Baka lines up against a field including his twin brother Fouad who finished fourth in Rio.
Men’s 5,000m T54
Swiss star Marcel Hug takes on six distances in Dubai, from 100m through to 5,000m. He’s up against a talented field including the man who beat him to first place at February’s Tokyo marathon, Sho Watanabe of Japan. Watch out too for Watanabe’s countrymen, Masayuki Higuchi and Tomoki Suzuki.
Men’s shot put F33
All three medallists from Rio 2016 line up in Dubai: Germany’s Daniel Scheil, Algeria’s Kamel Kardjena and Saudi Arabia’s Hani Alnakhli won gold, silver and bronze respectively in Brazil. The battle for supremacy in 2017 – and the chase for the world title – begins here.
Women’s 100m T11
Brazil’s former Paralympic champion Terezinha Guilhermina and Great Britain’s newly crowned champion Libby Clegg race over 100m and 200m in the UAE. Clegg, who turns 27 days after the Grand Prix, broke Guilhermina’s world record last year and will be determined to show that she is now queen of the track in the T11 sprints.
Women’s 100m T38
Sophie Hahn is one of a number of talented Brits making the journey to the Middle East. The 20-year-old is the reigning world and Paralympic champion over 100m and will start as favourite. Watch out for her teammate Kadeena Cox, winner of the 400m T38 at Rio 2016.
Women’s discus F57
Algeria’s Nassima Saifi and Ireland’s Orla Barry won gold and silver respectively at the Rio Games; both take to the field in Dubai. Saifi is the reigning world champion and world record holder and one of a number of talented Algerians making the trip to the UAE – former world and Paralympic champion Safia Djelal also starts.
Women’s shot put F33
Another of Algeria’s Paralympic gold medallists, Asmahan Boudjadar, will be out to make her mark in Dubai a year after she broke the javelin F33 world record and set a new African shot put F33 record at the same event. Local hopes will rest with the UAE’s Paralympic bronze medallist Sara Al Senaani.