Dubai: Some of the top champions from across the world will be seen in action as the Dubai 2019 World Para Athletics Championship, which opens at the Dubai Club for People of Determination (DCPD) late on Thursday.
Australia, China, Japan and USA - some of the traditional powers in the world of para athletics - have landed in Dubai with most of their stars. Russia, who have the biggest delegation of 112, will be participating for the first time in three years following the lifting of international sanctions.
Leading the challenge in the men’s section is Algeria’s Abdel Latif Baka. The Algerian two-time Paralympic champion made headlines worldwide after he won the men’s 1500m T13 in a time faster than the Rio 2016 Olympics champion.
“The focus will be to keep my title and for this, I am here to give off my best,” Baka told media at the DCPD stadium.
“Medals is what every athlete works for and I am in Dubai to win some more and add to my collection so that my country’s flag can fly high,” he added.
One of the biggest attractions at these championships will be three-time Paralympic medallist and two-time world champion Atsushi Yamamoto of Japan. The 37-year-old from Kakegawa is excited about his prospects in Dubai in the next few days as he starts his campaign with an eye on 2020 Tokyo. So far, 2019 has been special to Yamamoto as he set a personal best of 6. 70 metres in the T42 long jump at the Beijing Grand Prix in May.
“The main thing for me would be to carry forward this momentum and book my place at Tokyo 2020. I feel pretty pleased that I will have the opportunity to compete in a Paralympic Games in front of my own people. There will be no pressure as I just want to go out there and enjoy the Games,” Yamamoto said.
Others to watch out for in the men’s competitions will be Trinidad & Tobago’s Akeem Stewart (Discus throw F64), Namibia’s Ananias Shikongo (200m T11), Ireland’s Jason Smyth (100m T13), Switzerland’s Marcel Hug (distance events T54), Brazil’s Petrucio Ferreira (100m T47) and the UAE’s Mohammad Al Hammadi (100m, 800m T34).
The UAE’s Sara Al Senaani - the first female emirati athlete to win a medal at a Paralympic Games when she took bronze in the women’s shot put F33 at Rio 2016 - was excited to perform in front of her home crowd. “I had a good one-month training and I am looking forward to performing my best at the Championships. My main target is Tokyo 2020 where I want to win a gold this time,” Al Senaani said.
Others to watch out in the women’s competitions will be American Deja Young (100m and 200m T47), Latvia’s Diana Dadzite (discus three F55, javelin throw F56), China’s Hongzhuan Zhou (wheelchair races T53), Britain’s Kadeena Cox (sprints T38), Italy’s Matina Caironi (100m and long jump T63), Cuba’s Omara Durand (sprints), Australia’s German-born Vanessa Low (long jump T63) and Tunisia’s Raoua Tlili (shot put and discus throw T41) among others.
The opening ceremony will be held at 6 pm at the DCPD main stadium in Al Ghusais with the attendance of most of the 1,400 athletes representing 122 nations in 172 events. Added to this record participation is the 1,100 officials and more than 800 volunteers, who will be involved in the eight days of the championships.
The competitions will be held at three separate venues across Dubai – the refurbished DCPD stadium, the Dubai Police Officers Club and the Al Wasl Club.
2019 World Para Athletics Championships
Date: November 7-15
Number of athletes: 1400 from 122 countries in 172 events.
• London initially scheduled to host the championships.
• Dubai announced as venue in June 2018, also acting as a qualifying event for Tokyo 2020