Dubai: Top para-athletes including Tokyo 2020 medallist and local favourite Mohammed Hammadi will return to one of their favourite hunting grounds when the 13th Fazza International Championships- Dubai 2022 World Para Athletics Grand Prix gets underway from Monday.
The Championships, hosted under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, will kick off the World Para Athletics’ Grand Prix season with around 500 para-athletes from 43 nations to be in action at the Dubai Club for People of Determination grounds this week.
The Championships hold significance as athletes will aim to achieve Minimum Qualification Standard for this July’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and Asian Para Games in Hangzhou, this October. The event also offered an opportunity to more than 100 para-athletes to be classified.
Hammadi, who will be competing in men’s 800m wheelchair T34 event, will lead a 61-member UAE side that also has Rio 2016 medallists Noura Al Ketbi and Sara Aljneibi besides Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games bronze medallist Mariam Almatrooshi.
“This year we have the Asian Para Games in Hangzhou and this event will be good warm up going ahead into the season. I have just started my training and want to go step by step. I am not thinking too much about the result here but the focus will be to get consistent results; control my body and mind,” said UAE’s Paralympic star, who took a silver and bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
Star Studded Line-up
A tussle between Al Hammadi and his Tunisian nemesis Walid Ktila, a four-time Paralympic champion, is yet again on the cards for the men’s 800m T34 gold. Both the stars in fact started the season at the Sharjah 2022 International Open Para Athletics meet with Walid taking the gold.
“It was a good start to the season. I am happy to be getting used to my new Top End wheelchair. I hope I can get great results with it in the coming time,” said the 36-year-old, who already has the Paris 2024 gold in his mind.
Among other top names competing this week are Switzerland’s wheelchair racing legend Marcel Hug, the six-time Paralympic and nine-time World champion, would be the biggest name in the field, while several newcomers would be keen to make a mark at the Grand Prix event. Columbia’s Jose Gregorio Lemos Rivas (men’s 100m, long jump and javelin F/T38), Iraq’s Garrah Tnaiash (shot put F40) Malaysia’s Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi (400m T46) would be ones to watch in men’s events.
In women’s event, Australia’s Paralympic star Angela Ballard would be the favourite in women wheelchair races. Indonesia’s Asian Para Games gold medallist sprinters Putri Aulia and Karisma Evi Tiarani would be ones to watch in women’s 100m races.
‘Event has grown over the years’
Looking ahead to an action-packed week, Thani Juma Berregad, Chairman of the Fazza Championships said: “The Fazza Para Athletics Championship has been an important event in our calendar. And the event has grown over the years with Paralympic and World champions now being a regular in the line-up. This event was also the stepping stone towards hosting a successful World Para Athletics Championships in 2019. I hope the event continue to produce many more Paralympic champions. My best wishes to the participating athletes.”
Majid Al Usaimi, Director of the Fazza Championships added: “After the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, the athletes would be eager to get back to the competition mode. With some of the big events lined up later this year including the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Para Games, the Fazza Championships will be important in terms of analysing their game and work needed to be done.”
Last year’s Dubai GP saw four new world records, including one in the women’s 100m T63 with Italy’s Ambra Sabatini making her international debut – six months later she went on to claim the gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.