IPC Athletics Grand Prix heads to Arizona

By International Paralympic Committee (IPC) | May 12, 2016, 12:45 p.m. (ET)
Jeremy Campbell is one of 36 U.S. athletes from the 2015 world championship team returning for the Desert Challenge Games in Grand Mesa, Arizona from May 13-15.

With the IPC Athletics outdoor season now well underway, the Grand Prix series heads to Arizona for two days of track and field action, starting on Friday, May 13.

More than 270 Para athletes from 16 countries will line up at the event which doubles as the Desert Challenge Games, as competitors look to make their mark on the international stage less than four months before the start of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Here are some of the key events:

Men’s 100m T44
Team USA's Jarryd Wallace (Athens, Georgia) won this event last year in an impressive 10.92 seconds, before going on to clock what was then a world record 10.71 at the Parapan Am Games in August. The 25-year-old returns to the Arizona State University track once again and is undoubtedly one to watch this weekend, having already notched up a number of fast times this season - including a wind assisted 10.57 at the Spec Towns Invitational in Georgia. World relay silver medalist Trenten Merrill (San Juan Capistrano, California) and Japanese sprinter Keita Sato also line up.

Men’s 200m T11
David Brown (St. Louis, Missouri) – gold medalist in the 100m T11 at last year’s world championships – opened his season last month, and made an instant impression as he clocked 22.45 over 200m at the Drake Relays in Iowa. That mark was just 0.04 seconds shy of his world record set in 2014; how fast can the 23-year-old go this weekend in Arizona? World long jump T11 champion Lex Gillette (Raleigh, North Carolina) is amongst those hoping to give Brown a run for his money.
 
Men’s 200m T42
Three athletes from last year’s 200m T42 world championship final line up in Arizona this weekend hoping to lay down a marker ahead of the Paralympic Games in September. Denmark’s world bronze medalist Daniel Jorgensen is joined by the Regas Woods (Ocala, Florida) and Great Britain’s Dave Henson who finished sixth and seventh respectively in Doha, Qatar, last year – Team USA Paralympic silver medalist Shaquille Vance (Houston, Mississippi) also starts. A big race could well be on the cards.

Men’s 400m T52
Multiple world and Paralympic champion Ray Martin (Jersey City, New Jersey) remains the man to beat in the T52 class. The 22-year-old takes on four track events in Arizona, and will be hoping for a repeat of his winning form from this time last year. Joining Martin on the start line are the men who won silver and bronze behind Martin at last year’s Parapan Am Games – Colombia’s Cristian Torres and Mexico’s Salvador Hernandez, as well as his U.S. teammates Steven Toyoji (San Francisco, California) and Gianfranco Iannotta (Garfield, New Jersey), and another Mexican world finalist, Leonardo Perez.

Men’s discus throw F44
Another battle between the top two Americans Jeremy Campbell (Perryton, Texas) and David Blair (Eagle Mountain, Utah) is once again on the cards in what continues to be a highly competitive and enthralling event. Paralympic and world champion Campbell will have to be on form to get the better of his rival Blair, who set a personal best of 60.46m when he won world silver last year. 

Women’s 100m T34
Young talent Alexa Halko (Williamsburg, Virginia) raced here last year with great success, and with a further 12 months experience under her belt – including her first world championships, where she picked up two silver medals – it will be exciting to see just what the 15-year-old has in store. Canadians Rachael Burrows and Djami Diallo will be hoping to upset the form book.

Women’s 200m T54
A thrilling race between Hannah McFadden (Baltimore, Maryland) and Cheri Madsen (Union, Nebraska) can be expected as the pair go head-to-head once again. Seven-time Paralympic medalist Madsen got the better of her younger rival at last year’s world championships, clinching silver as McFadden raced to the line for bronze; both clocked 29.96 seconds. The 200m T54 is just one of five events McFadden will contest over the two days of competition while Madsen takes on four.

Women’s 800m T53
Bermuda’s Jessica Lewis has set her sights on reaching the podium at this year’s Paralympic Games, having enjoyed a successful 2015 when she won 100m T53 gold at the Parapan Am Games before adding world bronze two months later. The 23-year-old takes on the likes of Paralympic marathon champion Shirley Reilly (Los Gatos, California). 

Women’s club throw F51
Rachael Morrison (Farmington Hills, Michigan) made her grand prix debut at this event last year, and showed no sign of first-time nerves, winning both the discus and club throws. The 28-year-old went on to win discus gold and club throw silver at August’s Parapan American Games in Toronto, Canada, then went even further at the world championships in Doha, Qatar, winning discus gold with a new world record of 12.86m, as well as club throw silver. She will be tough competition once again for fellow U.S. thrower Cassie Mitchell (Atlanta, Georgia). 

Women’s long jump T42
World long jump champion Vanessa Low opens her season in Arizona this weekend after a spectacular 2015 season, which saw the 25-year-old secure her first global title with a world record breaking leap of 4.79m.  The German is aiming for her first Paralympic title at the Rio Games this year and a winning performance in Arizona would surely be a welcome start to her season.