World's top para-athletes vie in Dubai for spots at Tokyo Games

Competitors aim to break records in championships this week

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - SEPTEMBER 16:  (L_R) Silver medalist Sara Hamdi Masoud of Qatar, gold medalist Asmahan Boudjadar of Algeria and bronze medalist Sara Alsenaani of United Arab Emirates pose on the podium at the medal ceremony for Women's Shot Put - F33 during day 9 of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on September 16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Lucas Uebel/Getty Images)
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Top para-athletes from around the globe are focused on breaking records at championships starting in Dubai this week.

The World Para Athletics Championships is the last opportunity for competitors to guarantee their place at the Paralympics in Tokyo next year.

Japan’s Atsushi Yamamoto, a three-time Paralympic medallist and two-time world champion, said he was determined to make the team.

Yamamoto said he was on track to beat his personal best in the long-jump, which stands at 6.56 metres.

“I must place within the top four positions to make it to Tokyo 2020 and that is my main goal in Dubai,” Yamamoto, 37, said on Tuesday.

“I want to perform in front of the Japanese people in the Paralympics as a top athlete.”

About 1,400 athletes from 118 countries, including the UAE, are taking part in the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai this week.

The competition runs from November 7 to 15 and includes track events as well as shot put, discus and javelin.

Yamamoto took up athletics in 2002, two years after having his left leg amputated after a motorcycle accident.

He is now his country’s best-known athlete with a disability, winning medals at several championships.

Yamamoto said sport could help people to tackle any challenge in life and that seeing para-athletes compete changed attitudes.

“People here will start talking of athletes with disabilities because of these games,” he said. “Even in Japan, attitudes are changing and getting better.”

Emirati Paralymic medallist Sara Al Senaani said she was excited to be part of the event.

“I want to break my own record so I can qualify for Tokyo,” Al Senaani said.

She became the first Emirati woman paralympian to win a medal when she picked up the bronze for the shot put in the 2016 Games in Rio.

“It is a good feeling to spread awareness,” Al Senaani said.