This is day 1 update on IPC World (Disability) Athletics Championships. We will have an update each day thanks to Stuart Weir, who began his 2019 journey last January.
IPC World (Disability) Athletics Championships
IPC World (Disability) Athletics Championships is up and running – wheeling, jumping and throwing too. Just as the award of the IAAF World Champs to Doha was controversial, so was the IPC decision to take the event to Dubai. First of all it had to take place in November because of the heat. That is a full two months after the normal end of the season. And with the Paralympics next year, it means two months less preparation for that event.
Doha at least has experience of hosting elite track and field with an annual Diamond League and it had also hosted a World Indoors and an IPC World Championships before being given the 2019 IAAF World Championships. Dubai had none of that. There was criticism of the low attendances at Doha and some problems with scheduling in the stadium, having opted for 8-hour afternoon and event sessions to avoid the hot mornings. The women’s 100m in Doha, scheduled late to accommodate international TV, was run in a near empty stadium towards midnight.
Spectators have been sparse to non-existent in Dubai. Perhaps a few 100s at most in total. The presence of a good number of athletes and team staff creates some atmosphere but it is hard to see this week as the pinnacle of para athletics. When asked about the lack of crowds here and in Doha, British wheelchair racer, Sammi Kinghorn, shrugged and said that Para athletes were used to competing in empty stadiums.
The highlight of day 1 was the win by 20-year-old Australian Jardy Clifford in the T13 (visual impairment) 1500m in a time of 3:49.30, beating Algeria’s Paralympic champion Abdellatif Baka. Last year Clifford finished seventh in the IAAF World U20 Championships in Finland.
The day also saw a first British gold medal for Paul Blake, who won the T36 world 800 metres title for the third time. Paul ran well and controlled the race and did all that could have been expected of him. But there were only 4 in the race, which was a non-uncommon straight to final with no heats event, and he won by 50 meters. You can only beat those in the race and it is not his fault that there were only 4 in the race. Yet a race where three quarters of the starters get a medal also seems unsatisfactory. Part of the issue is that the T36 800 is not a Paralympic event – there are way less events in the Paralympics than the World Championships – and some athletes in T36 class tend to concentrate on Paralympic events. The reality is that not all gold medals are equal or are equally difficult to win. Blake will go again in the Paralympic distance 1500m and will face sterner competition there.
Pampano and Gonzales of Spain, T36 800m, photo/copyright IPC