Athletes take part in a training session at the Dubai Club for People of Determination.
Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor
With an eye on Tokyo 2020 qualification, top para athletes from across the world will be putting their best foot forward at the World Para Athletics Championships begins in Dubai on Thursday.
More than 1,400 athletes from 123 countries are taking part in the biggest edition of the championships.
The events will be held at three venues including the Dubai Club for People of Determination, the Dubai Police Officers Club and Al Wasl Club.
Among the strong star-studded teams participating in the event are the US, Great Britain, China, Australia and Japan.
Russia, who have the biggest delegation of 112, will be participating for the first time in three years following the lifting of international sanctions.
The tournament, which started in 1994 in Berlin and is held every two years, has become increasingly important as the Dubai edition is the most important as it represents the last qualifying event on the road to Tokyo Paralympics 2020.
UAE’s top para athletes Mohammed Al Hammadi, Noura Al Ketbi and Sara Al Senani will be leading the host nation’s charge at the event.
Hammadi is a three-time Paralympic medallist who took silver and bronze, respectively, in the men's 200m and 100m T34 at the London 2016 Games before going on to clinch gold in the 800m T34 at Rio 2016.
Ketbi and Senani entered the history books by bagging silver and bronze in the Shot Put F32 and F33, respectively, at Rio 2016.
Men’s athletes to watch out during the Dubai World Para Athletics Championships include Algeria’s Abdellatif Baka, Trinidad and 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 top five female athletes who will be under the spotlight are United States’ 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).
Latvia’s Dadzite followed her gold medal performance at the Rio 2016 Games with three world titles at the London 2017 Worlds. She will compete in the women’s discus throw F55 and javelin F56 in Dubai.
Young, a two-time Paralympic champion, will be looking to retain her 100m and 200m T47 world titles. She comes to Dubai following a hat-trick of titles at the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games in August.
China’s Zhou, a wheelchair racer, has dominated the T53 class for the past couple of years and has six Paralympic and seven World Championships gold medals in her kitty.
Britain’s Cox, a double Paralympic champion in two different sports (athletics and cycling), will be gunning for third gold at the Dubai event.
With a tally of nine medals India finished at the 24th position as the curtain fell on the nine-day competition on Friday.
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Hammadi clocked 15.97 secs to finish behind his Tunisian rival Walid Ktila (14.98 secs), a multiple-time Paralympic champion, in Men’s 100m T34 Final.
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