Dubai: Cuba’s multiple Paralympic gold medallist Omara Durand will be the toast of participants as the 12th Fazza International Championships — Dubai 2021 World Para Athletics Grand Prix that gets under way at the Dubai Club For People Of Determination grounds from Wednesday.
Scheduled to be held until February 13, the annual competition will witness nine new nations confirming their entries along with a 48-athlete strong UAE contingent led by Paralympic medallists Mohammad Al Hammadi, Sara Al Senaani and Noura Al Ketbi, among others.
However, the visually impaired Durand is expected to be the toast from the international field of athletes over the next few days. The 29-year-old Cuban sprinter, who competes in T12 and T13 category events, has claimed gold in her career.
At the 2012 London Olympics, she won gold medals in the T13 100m and 400m, while four years later in Rio, she won the 100m in the T12 setting a world record with a time of 11.40 seconds. After the 2016 Paralympics, Durand was named ‘Best Female at the Paralympic Sport Awards’. The Cuban athlete is expected to use the Dubai leg of the World Para Athletics Grand Prix as one of her tests in T12 heading towards her third successive Paralympic Games later this year.
This week’s competition will see nine new nations joining the race for honours with athletes coming in from Botswana, Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
With more than 600 para-athletes from 63 countries confirmed and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansoor Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Sports Council (DSC), this week’s competition will serve as one of the seven qualifying Para Athletics events for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
Meanwhile, Al Hammadi, Al Senaani and Al Ketbi will head the UAE challenge and secure their slots at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Middle-distance runner Al Hammadi had a fantastic Dubai 2019 World Championships at the same venue when he claimed three medals, including a gold in his favourite 800m T34 event.
And while Al Hammadi will be in action in the men’s 100m and 800m T34 events, Al Senaani will be looking to secure her Tokyo 2020 spot here in the women’s Shot Put F33 event. Al Senaani became the first Emirati female athlete to win a Paralympic medal at Rio 2016.
“After more than a year of no competition, it feels nice to finally getting to compete. I have been participating at Fazza competition since 2011, so I have fond memories of this event,” Al Senaani said.
Al Ketbi will be in action in the women’s shot put and club throw F32 events.