World Paralympics Championships 2015 Begin in Qatar
Some 1,400 athletes from almost 100 countries are expected in Doha for the IPC 2015 World Championships, which organisers say they “fully expect to be the best ever”.
The Paralympics competition begins on Thursday and lasts for 10 days. All 70 hours of action will be streamed live on the IPC’s website.
The biennial championships are the last major gathering of track and field paralympic stars before next year’s Olympics, and as well as gold medals in Qatar there are also qualifying slots to be won for Rio 2016.
In total, there are 214 medal events across 15 disciplines. Some 350 athletes will use a wheelchair.
Philip Craven, the IPC president who claimed these could be the best world championships, said that he expected athletes in Qatar to compete “perhaps more fiercely than they ever have done before”.
It is the sixth time the event has been held and these are notably the first world championships to be hosted in the Middle East.
Among the most anticipated events is the 100 metres T44 final which could see world record holder Jarryd Wallace race against US compatriot, and former record holder, Richard Browne.
The T44 event is for athletes with a single below the knee amputation or who have restricted function in one or both legs.
Wallace and Browne are among an 84-strong team travelling to Qatar from the United States, which is looking to go one better in the medal table than at the last world championships, held in Lyon.
In France, Russia topped the medal table with 26 golds to the USA’s 17.
In the 1500m T54 event, a classification for athletes with spinal cord injuries, Swiss world record holder Marcel Hug, nicknamed the “Silver Bullet”, will be up against six-time Olympic gold medal winner, David Weir.
In the women’s events, the main star is set to be the Netherlands’ Marlou van Rhijn.
The sprint star will celebrate her 24th birthday on the opening day of competition and is in great form.
Already this year she has lowered her T43 (double below knee amputation) 100m record and created three personal bests at 200m throughout 2015.
Van Rhijn though will defend her T44 100m and 200m world titles in Doha which she won in Lyon. Born without lower legs, she is one of the biggest names in the sport.
Her main competition could come from Marie-Amelie Le Fur, a former French junior running champion who lost her lower left leg following a scooter accident in 2004.
Local interest should come in the shape of Qatari shot-putter Abdelrahman Abdelqader, an Asian Games winner and world ranked number one.
The event will be held at the 12,000-seater Qatar Sports Club Suhaim bin Hamam stadium in central Doha.
The track was the same venue for an IAAF Diamond League meet earlier year, where runners included Justin Gatlin and Mo Farah.
Although temperatures are down from the country’s fierce summer heat, the mercury could still reach up to 35 degrees Celsius, 94 Fahrenheit, over the first few days of competition.
It is the latest big sports event to be hosted by the tiny but exceedingly rich Gulf state in 2015.
Last week, Qatar hosted the AIBA World Boxing Championships, which drew Manny Pacquiao and the Klitschko brothers to watch.
Qatar will also host the 2019 World Athletics Championships.