Mohammed Al Hammadi, the multiple Paralympic medal winner, leads a 50-strong UAE team in the 13th Fazza International Dubai 2022 World Para Athletics Grand Prix starting on Monday.
The four-day event has drawn more than 500 athletes from 43 countries and will be held at the Dubai Club for People of Determination, providing athletes qualification points for both the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July/August and October's Asian Para Games in Hangzhou.
Al Hammadi won silver and bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, before that had secured gold at Rio 2016, silver and bronze at 2012 London, in the T34 wheelchair category.
He competes in the men’s 800m T34 event and leads a 50-member UAE squad that also include Rio 2016 medallists (silver) Noura Al Ketbi and Sara Al Junaibi (bronze) besides Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games bronze medallist Mariam Al Matrooshi.
“This year we have the Asian Para Games and the Fazza Championship will be an ideal prep going into the summer,” Al Hammadi said.
“I have just started my training and want to go step by step. I am not thinking too much about the result here but the focus will be to achieve good results be consistently, and control my body and mind.”
Al Hammadi is set to meet his main challenger Tunisian Walid Ktila, a four-time Paralympic champion. They faced-off earlier this year at the Sharjah International Open Para Athletics meet with Walid taking gold.
The rivalry between the two goes back to more than 10 years and Al Hammadi insisted it as a fierce competition on the track but a long-standing friendship off it.
“For me, it was a good start to the season,” said of his first meeting of the year against Ktila. “I am happy with that result while still getting used to with my new top-end wheelchair. I hope I can get good results this time around and in the season ahead.”
Among the top names in the championship are Switzerland’s Marcel Hug, the six-time Paralympic and nine-time World champion in the wheelchair.
Top athletes taking part in the men’s events include Columbia’s Jose Gregorio Lemos (men’s 100m, long jump and javelin F/T38), Iraq’s Garrah Tnaiash (shot put F40) and Malaysian Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi (400m T46).
In women’s, Australian Paralympic star Angela Ballard will be the favourite in the wheelchair race while Indonesia's Asian Para Games gold medallist sprinters Putri Aulia and Karisma Evi Tiarani are ones to watch in the 100m races.