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knowsley disability athletics grand prix

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Dave Weir

20 May 2011

Six of Britain’s nine World Champions in addition to a host of high quality overseas athletes, most notably four-time World Champion Terezinha Aparecida Guilherhina of Brazil and multiple World Record holder Marcel Hug of Switzerland, will line up in first event of the UKA Disability Athletics Grand Prix Series at Kirkby Sports College in Knowsley this weekend (21-22 May).

A total of 96 athletes from nine nations will take part in the event, including strong teams from Brazil, Switzerland and Canada, which will take place on a high performance Mondo track - the fastest surface currently used in track and field in the world - and will support athletes targeting qualifying standards for the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

Three-time World champion David Weir (coach: Jenny Archer), who celebrated his fifth Virgin London Marathon title with victory in the capital in April, leads the domestic entries and is ready for an exciting head to head with Marcel Hug of Switzerland, one of his biggest rivals.

Weir, double Paralympic Champion in Beijing, re-affirmed his position as the leading wheelchair racer in the world when taking gold in the T54 800m, 1500m and 5000m in the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships in New Zealand, and following the recent release of UKA’s selection policy for the 2012 Paralympic Games, his attention is focused on achieving qualification standards for London in 15 months time.

Hug, multiple World Record holder and runner-up to Weir in all three events in New Zealand, took five World Championship medals in total on that occasion, most notably 10,000m gold in addition to silver in the T54 400m. The pair will line up together in four events at the Knowsely meet.

Aviva Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s double World Champion Hannah Cockroft (coach: Peter Eriksson), also a multiple World Record holder in wheelchair racing, added to her already-impressive medal haul this year with four podium finishes in the combined T34/T53 category in the IWAS World Junior Championships a month ago and competes in four events in Knowsely, while Bath-based duo Katrina Hart (T37) and Paul Blake (T36), both coached by Rob Ellchuk, compete in their first major track meet since New Zealand.

Hart, Commonwealth Champion over 100m and World Champion over 200m - runner up in the World Championships 100m - will compete over both distances this weekend, while Blake, who enjoyed a trio of podium finishes at the World Championships including 400m gold, will defend his Knowsely 800m title from 12 months ago.

World Championships T42 200m gold medallist Richard Whitehead (coach: Liz Yelling), who has focused on endurance events since his return from the Southern Hemisphere and has a marathon best of 2:42:54, will compete in the combined class 200m and 400m, while Libby Clegg (coach: Tom Crick), World Championships 100m gold medallist and bronze medallist over 200m, will compete domestically for the first time in 2011.

T12 athlete Clegg, who competed in the IBSA World Games in Turkey in April, will race in the combined class T11-13 100m and 200m and as a result will go up against one of the most powerful and talented visually impaired athletes in world at present, four-time World Champion Terezinha Aparecida Guilherhina (T11) of Brazil, the World Record holder in three events.

32-year-old Guilherhina made her international track debut in 2002 and won double bronze in the 2004 Paralympic Games, improving that to gold and silver in Beijing 2008. Inevitably she’ll be one to watch in London 2012.

The action kicks off in Knowsely at 13.00 on Saturday and 12.00 on Sunday and the events are free to attend.

Up to date start lists and the timetable can be found through the following link to the dedicated Disability Athletics Grand Prix section on the UKA website: http://uka.org.uk/competitions/dagp-2011/ (select the Knowsely tab).

Also this weekend, the inaugural Aviva Parallel Success Junior Grand Prix kicks off at Perivale Athletics Track, Perivale on Saturday.

The event - incorporated within the CP Grand Prix Athletics Series - is one of four events created to sit alongside the existing competition structure for developing athletes. An athlete’s best three individual performances will determine the overall winner in each category.

The Series continues at Robin Park in Wigan on Saturday 18 June, followed by Exeter Arena in Wigan on Saturday 16 July and Gateshead International Stadium, Gateshead on Saturday 27 August.

“This is a big weekend for disability athletics and it’s a hugely positive step to include this Aviva Parallel Success Junior Grand Prix Series into our overall programme of competition,” said Katie Jones, Senior Coordinator Paralympic Talent. “We want to give more athletes more opportunities to compete at an appropriate level for them and this development competition supports our now well-established domestic Grand Prix Series and provides a competition pathway early on in an athletes’ career.”

For more information on how to get involved in athletics go to the Aviva UKA Academy and check out the Aviva Parallel Success section: http://academy.uka.org.uk/parallel-success/  

For event entry forms visit the CP Sport website.