Paralympic champ Jonnie Peacock among winners at Alexander Stadium as inaugural IPC Athletics Grand Prix series draws to a close
Jonnie Peacock will be heading to Lyon in three week’s time looking to add a world title to his Paralympic gold and world record-breaking feats and should be filled with confidence about his current form thanks to a 10.90 clocking at the Sainsbury’s IPC Athletics Grand Prix Final on Saturday.
Part of the weekend-long Sainsbury’s Grand Prix – Birmingham, Saturday’s event was the final stop of this year’s seven-meeting IPC Grand Prix series which has seen athletes compete in Dubai, Beijing, Sao Paulo, Grosseto, Arizona and Berlin.
With the likes of six-time Paralympic champion David Weir, double Paralympic and world champion Hannah Cockroft and Paralympic champion Richard Whitehead in action, there was always going to be plenty to keep the home crowd entertained and Peacock’s dominant performance saw him cross to one of the loudest cheers of the afternoon.
Perfect preparation for Peacock
In a race that saw the disqualification of Paralympic bronze medallist David Prince, who had already secured 400m success earlier on in the day, for a false start, T44 world record-holder Peacock built on an early lead to take victory ahead of Canada’s Alister McQueen (11.71) and Dutch athlete Ronald Hertog (11.72) who won javelin bronze in London last summer.
Peacock’s clocking was just 0.05 seconds outside of his own world record set in July of last year and will leave the 20-year-old’s confidence riding high ahead of Lyon where it will be interesting to see how much faster he can go, though he’s not giving anything away. When asked how fast he can run he simply advised the crowd to ‘keep watching’.
“I’m pretty happy. Five months of training and I can come up with that, not really much to complain about is there,” commented Peacock, who had an operation on his ankle after the London Games.
“I think I’m in good form for Lyon. We’re working on starting and then getting better and better. Hopefully these next couple weeks we’re just going to get faster and faster.”
On being pushed to his limit by rivals, he added: “The guys are doing a fantastic job of keeping the rivalry alive. It’s bringing more eyes to the sport, which is always a bonus.”
Cockroft continues to dominate
Also victorious on home soil was T34 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m world record holder Cockroft, and although admitting the time was not as fast as she would have liked, her 32.19 in the combined T33/34 200m was more than enough to clinch the win ahead of Dutch duo Amy Siemons and Desiree Vranken and puts her in good stead ahead of the World Championships.
Dominant from the start, Cockroft distanced herself from the field early on to finish more than three seconds clear of Paralympic silver medallist Siemons (35.60). Paralympic bronze medallist Vranken claimed third with her 38.42 clocking, pipping Brit Mel Nicholls, who broke the 1500m T34 world record back in May, into fourth.
In the women’s F42/44 long jump it was the final valid jump of Britain’s Paralympic silver medallist Stef Reid (4.88m, 784 points) that secured her third place behind winner Martina Caironi of Italy (4.31m, 968 points) and in-form Iris Pruysen (4.92m, 802 points), the Dutchwoman who finished fourth at the Games last summer and won in Berlin recently with a best of 5.21m.
No win for Weir as Hug takes victory
The men’s T54 1500m was always going to be a tough test for home favourite David Weir as the four-time London 2012 gold medallist faced a field including the man who picked up Paralympic silver behind him in the 800m and the marathon, Marcel Hug of Switzerland, and Canada’s marathon world record holder Josh Cassidy.
It was world 10,000m champion Hug who eventually prevailed, working as a master tactician to surge around Fernando Sanchez on the final bend to clinch the win in 3:27.60. Weir also tuned on the gas on the final straight but clipped Hug’s wheel – it wasn’t enough to get ahead and Weir had to settle for second in 3:28.01.
Having only been back training for a week and a half, Weir, who won’t be racing in Lyon in order to spend more time with his young family, admitted that ultimately he was happy with his time. He was also pleased to be racing alongside two young athletes from his academy, Will Smith, who finished sixth with 3:33.37, and Sheikh Sheikh who clocked 3:42.89 for eighth.
Red card for Whitehead
The first big shock of the afternoon came in the men’s T42 200m as Paralympic champ Whitehead was disqualified for a false start, clearing the way for Germany’s Heinrich Popow, who claimed silver behind Whitehead in London last summer, to take the win thanks to his 26.19 clocking.
Popow – the reigning world and Paralympic T42 champion over 100m – had recently proven his form, clocking 12.12 over 100m in the Berlin meet of the IPC Athletics Grand Prix series which would have been a world record time but for the windy conditions. Japan’s Atsushi Yamamoto followed him home with a personal best 26.63 ahead of Denmark’s Daniel Jorgensen who claimed third place with 27.08.
Another British star to miss their chance to shine on the track was London 2012 marathon silver medallist Shelly Woods who pulled out of the competition at the last minute having damaged one of her wheels during her warm-up.
This left fellow Brit Jade Jones to take on Swiss duo Edith Wolf and Patricia Keller and American Shirley Reilly in a test that eventually saw Paralympic 5000m champ Wolf take the lead with 400m to go and hold her place to take victory in 3:57.91. Reilly clocked 3:58.74 for second while Tanni Grey-Thompson-coached Jones placed third with 4:00.44.
With a couple of his longer throws disallowed, Britain’s discus F44 world champion Dan Greaves was left with a best throw of 57.37m to secure him second behind US Paralympic champion Jeremy Campbell who dominated with his first round throw of 62.05m. Adrian Matusik of Slovakia finished third with 50.98 ahead of Paralympic F42 discus champion Aled Davies, who also claimed shot bronze in London last summer and broke his own shot world record earlier this year.
Kamlish and Woodward sensational in sprints
London Paralympian Sophie Kamlish followed up a PB of 13.69 set in Berlin a couple of weeks ago with what would have been another personal best performance in Birmingham, had it not been for an illegal wind.
Fast out of the blocks in the T43-46 100m, she took an early lead but it looked as though American Katie Walker might catch her. A final surge from Kamlish saw her cross in 13.56 to take the win ahead of Walker (13.68) and fellow Brit Laura Sugar (13.72).
Reinforcing the achievement was commercial director at UKA, Sophia Warner, when she commented: “Phenomenal performance by Sophie. A leg amputee beating an arm amputee is incredible.”
It was a Brit one-two in the T37 200m as London 2012 silver medallist Bethany Woodward took a clear win with her 29.48 clocking ahead of world champion Katrina Hart who crossed in 30.53. Over a second clear of the rest of the field, Woodward blamed the windy conditions for not being able to go faster, particularly on the bend, but was happy with her showing ahead of Lyon.
The first event on the track was the women’s T20 1500m where, following a false start, Poland’s Paralympic champion and world-record holder Barbara Niewiedzal dominated to take gold in 4:31.55. A fast final lap saw Niewiedzal increase her lead over the field to finish comfortably ahead of Hungarian twins Ilona Biacsi and Bernadett Biacsi who crossed in 4:38.04 and 4:42.66 respectively.
American athletes filled the top three spots in the men’s T44 400m, with David Prince, who went on to be disqualified for a false start in the 100m, crossing in 52.73 to comfortably take the win with almost a second and a half to spare ahead of Trenten Merrill (54.14) and Rob Brown (55.77).
London 2012 runner-up Daniel Pek of Poland went one better on Saturday in Birmingham to claim gold in the men’s T54 1500m with 4:03.89. His compatriot Rafal Korc, bronze medallist in London, again finished one spot behind his countryman thanks to his 4:04.38 clocking. Portugal’s Samuel Freitas was third with 4:04.90.
Time-trial for McKillop over 800m
Treating the men’s T36/37 800m as something of a time-trial was Ireland’s London 2012 champion Michael McKillop. World record-holder over the distance, he really picked up the pace at the bell – with sights set on a sub-2:00 clocking. Although not quite making the mark, his 2:00.08 was by far enough for victory, placing him over four seconds clear of double London 2012 medallist Brad Scott of Australia who crossed in 2:04.40.
London Paralympian Kyron Duke went into the men’s F40/41 javelin competition as the one to beat and he justified his status with a third round throw of 36.50m to win ahead of Germany’s Niko Kappel and fellow Brit Sean Clare.
Duke, who finished fifth in the shot competition in London as well as placing eighth in the javelin throw, kicked off the day’s proceedings with a throw of 34.54m in the first round, adding just under two meters to that mark to eventually clinch the win.
Kappel’s best throw of 29.82 was enough for second ahead of Clare who recorded a new personal best of 20.26m in what was his first major javelin outing since 2010.
Men’s F31/32/51 club throw action followed on the field with three-time Paralympic champion Stephen Miller giving the home crowd further cause for celebration thanks to his winning final-round throw of 28.78m. American Kevin Stokes’ best of 20.95m secured him second ahead of Britain’s four-time Paralympian Richard Schabel (20.04).
In the women’s F40/41 shot, world record holder and Paralympic champ Raoua Tlili of Tunisia again proved her dominance with her 9.42 best throw. Her compatriot Fathia Amaimia threw 7.27 for second ahead of Brit duo Holly Neill (6.79m) and Leah Flack (4.17m).
» The July 4 issue of AW will include a report and further pictures from the Sainsbury’s IPC Athletics Grand Prix final