The 2015 IPC Athletics Grand Prix season gets underway in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in just five days’ time (22 February) – and there is one big name athlete who cannot wait to hear the starters’ gun.
Tunisia’s Walid Ktila has no equal when it comes to T34 track racing and this week returns to the scene of some of the greatest performances in an already illustrious career.
It was in Dubai, 12 months ago that the 29-year old made last year’s IPC Grand Prix his personal stage.
On one day Ktila broke the world records for the 200m and 800m T34, then for good measure followed up 24 hours later by lowering the mark for the 400m as well.
Three world records inside two days – it is no wonder Ktila is anticipating the prospect of an IPC Grand Prix return to Dubai.
“I have got great memories of last year in Dubai”, he said.
“Three world records, favourable conditions and a good climate. Training had gone well and I was mentally and physically prepared. I had a feeling I could produce some good results.”
After such incredible success 12 months ago, Ktila is hoping for more of the same this week, but is realistic about the task ahead.
“This year’s preparations have been excellent. Of course I’m looking for some good results but I don’t expect to be coming away with three world records” he explained.
Ktila’s results last February were a natural evolution of a career which had shown big improvements year after year.
He was the king of the T34 sprints at the London 2012 Paralympics, winning gold in both the 100m and 200m.
The Tunisian followed up by completing a clean sweep at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France – winning four gold medals from 100m to 800m.
His win in the 400m was a close-run affair however as he beat Australia’s Rheed McCracken to the line by just a tenth of a second.
It is not surprising that Ktila nominates the Queensland teenager as his biggest threat for 2015. McCracken picked up three world silvers and a bronze behind his rival in Lyon, and at just 18 years of age, can be expected to be a thorn in Ktila’s side when it comes to topping the podium in Doha, Qatar at the IPC Athletics World Championships in eight months’ time.
“I very much respect Rheed. He has a great sporting future ahead of him and will be a very strong competitor in both the short and long term,” explained Ktila.
“My objective is to do well at all the events this year but especially the World Championships. I do feel some psychological pressure though as I’ve got a high level. I don’t want to lose that.”
With four gold medals to defend from Lyon, the Tunisian will be a busy man in October. Success in Dubai this week will provide the perfect platform for another year of Ktila domination.
The IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Dubai takes place from 22-25 February and is set to feature more than 500 athletes from nearly 50 countries.
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