he World Para Athletics Grand Prix in Nottwil, Switzerland began in style with a world record (subject to ratification) from Richard Whitehead (coach: Keith Antoine) in the T42/44 200m, recording a best ever time of 23.01 (0.8).
The Nottingham-based athlete powered his way down the home-straight in trademark fashion, using his class to edge ever closer to a first-ever sub-23 second time. In lane seven, Whitehead used all his experience to take 0.02 seconds off his previous best, set at the London Stadium last July.
The double Paralympic champion spoke afterwards:
“It is nice to break my world record again. I can have a go at that sub 23 time in London maybe. I’m perhaps a little disappointed I didn’t go even faster but myself, Keith (his coach) and my S&C team have worked tirelessly on the technical aspects. I’m 40 years old so fast twitch starts to run out at about 30! So I am having to look at other areas of my running, the technical aspects in my training and recovery which are very important.”
“Conditions are great for racing – I’ve had a great winter so it has really set me up for some good racing. Back in the UK I have done some mid 23s, so to come here and push on a little bit has set me up well for London (World Para Athletics Championships).”
He added: “Having a family back at home means I have to make sacrifices for the sport and this year I have definitely spent a lot of time away from home so it is important that I put down the performances and build a season differently to how I normally would. I usually come out and throw everything at my race but today I was focusing on the technical side of my running and it has paid off.”
After setting a marvellous four world records in Arbon last week, Hannah Cockroft (Jenni Banks) again showed promising signs in the T34 800m, blitzing the field to cross the line in 1:56.71 – the second fastest time of her career. She pushed hard early on as she seized an early lead and never looked back as she kicked off her campaign in Nottwil, which continues with the 100m and 1500m on Saturday.
Also in the race, Carly Tait (Banks) was eventually given second place with a time of 2:25.97. She faced a strong challenge with the Dutch athlete, Desiree Vranken (NED) who was ultimately disqualified for a false start. Tait returned to the track to set a personal best over 200m with a best mark of 34.73 (1.0) Fellow Briton Paige Murray (Job King) was third in the 800m in 2:22.56.
With several heats for the T54 800m, showing the incredible depth in the event, Richard Chiassaro (Banks) was the top Briton after posting a time of 1:34.29 to place fourth overall. There were personal bests for Nathan Maguire (Steven Hoskins) who took 0.04 seconds off his previous best, with 1:35.69, and also for WeirArcher Academy athlete Dillon LaBrooy (Jenny Archer), who completed a solo victory in his heat to set his best ever time over the distance of 1:40.66.
There was also a season’s best for Mickey Bushell (Jenny Archer) in the T53 200m, his time confirmed at 26.74; whilst Callum Hall (Ian Thompson) wasn’t far outside his lifetime best, recording a time of 1:45.65 in the T53 800m.
Toby Gold (Banks) narrowly edged a fine battle with Andy Small (Rick Hoskins) in the T33 200m; placing second and third respectively behind winner, Ahmad Almutairi (KUW). Gold, who lowered the European record in the 100m last week, pushed hard to a time of 30.89 (1.4) whilst Small revised his previous best to 31.02, shaving over half a second off his previous best.
Gold commented: “It felt ok – I was worried about my start in this one so I’ll concentrate on that for the 100m tomorrow. That is the strongest part of my race but I’m still working on a lot of things in the other phases of my race to be in the best possible shape for London.”
Earlier, the T34 800m was an entertaining contest with Walid Ktila (TUN) taking the spoils but Ben Rowlings (King) was a close second in 1:41.02 whilst Isaac Towers (Peter Wyman) was the next Brit across the line; his time was 1:43.74. Promising youngster Craig Boardman (Paul Smith) won an earlier heat in a lifetime best of 1:50.71.
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