U.S. sprinters headed to Sao Paulo for IPC Athletics Grand Prix

By Caryn Maconi | April 24, 2014, 12 p.m. (ET)
Richard Browne
Richard Browne finished second in the men's 100-meter (T43/44) race at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

David Prince
David Prince won a bronze medal in the men's 400m (T43/44) at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. He holds the world record in the T44 classification.

Two years from now, Brazil will be the ultimate destination for the world’s top Paralympic sprinters as Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Paralympic Games.

This week, though, some athletes will get a sneak peek. 

From April 24-26, about 430 athletes from 16 countries will compete at the International Paralympic Committee Athletics Grand Prix in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The meet is the third of nine Grand Prix events on the 2014 IPC Athletics calendar. Representing Team USA will be 2012 U.S. Paralympians Richard Browne and David Prince and fellow American Paul Peterson.

Browne, who took silver in the men's 100-meter (T43/44) at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, set an unofficial world record in the 200m T44 classification last weekend at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif. With a time of 21.91 seconds, he cleared fellow American Jarryd Wallace’s previous record by 0.17 seconds. Wallace set the record en route to winning the 2013 world title.

“I was just focused on executing my race (at Mt. SAC),” Browne said. “I was a little behind schedule with my training, so it just happened to be a good day at the office.”

Now that he has set that mark, Browne will spend the rest of the season concentrating on the 200m. He said his goal is to keep getting faster in that event, staying at the top of his class – and this weekend in Sao Paulo, he’ll get his first chance to do so. 

“This year my goal is to break the world record again,” Browne said. “My main focus is to lower that as much as possible before going into 2015. I want to have a good back end to my season and do well at nationals going into the world championships next year.”

The IPC Athletics World Championships are the long-term focus for Browne and many other top Paralympic runners, as 2014 is an off-season without a major international championship. The world championships are set for November 2015 in Doha, Qatar. Following that event, all eyes will be on the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, which are set for Sept. 7-18.

“We have to train our bodies to peak at the right time. A lot of guys are peaking early this year because it’s an off-year, but I’m not taking that approach,” Browne said. “I’m getting ready for 2015 and 2016, because my goal is to be the world and Paralympic champion.”

For Prince, too, the Grand Prix in Sao Paulo is just the beginning of the long Road to Rio. Prince won bronze in the 400m at both the London Games and the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France. That event will be his focus this weekend – but he’s not looking to set any world records just yet.  

“I haven’t run a 400 since last season, and I was injured at the end of last year when I strained my adductor,” Prince said. “This meet will give me a good idea of where my conditioning is. I’m just going to get competition under my belt, get out there and run the 400 and focus on proper technique. It’s still really early in the competitive season.”

Prince has spent the early part of his season testing out new running prosthetics, a change which he said will pay off in the long-term.    

“I’m just glad I can get down to Brazil and get these races in,” Prince said. “There’s nothing like figuring out what’s wrong with your prosthetics and tweaking technique when you’re faced with competition. That way, you can go back and analyze the video, see what your form is doing and see what you need to work on.”

Prince added that competing in Brazil will help prepare him mentally for the Rio 2016 Games.

“I’m excited to go check out the atmosphere and get that experience,” Prince said. “I’ve never been to Brazil, so I’m looking forward to getting down there so when I do go for Rio, I’ll be prepared. It’s just about being there and knowing how to handle anything that comes up.”

Though the Sao Paulo meet is just one of many tune-up meets on the Road to Rio, the competition will be as fierce as ever. The meet will include more than 20 medalists from the 2013 world championships.

“I know I’m going to have to bring my A-game,” Browne said. “I just want to execute a good, complete race and get out of the blocks fast.”

Following Sao Paulo, the 2014 IPC Athletics Grand Prix series will visit Mesa, Ariz., Switzerland, Italy, Tunisia and Germany before culminating in the Grand Prix Finals in Birmingham, Great Britain, on Aug. 25.

Also on the calendar for Team USA are the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships, which are set for June 20-22 at the College of San Mateo in San Mateo, Calif., near San Francisco.

Full results and additional information for the 2014 IPC Athletics Grand Prix series can be found at Paralympic.org