The IPC Track and Field World Championships
A Record-Smashing Success
March 2011 Issue
Between January 21-30, more than 1,000 competitors from 70 countries gathered at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, where athletic greats battled for track-and-field glory. Rivals jockeyed to make their mark in the last major international competition before the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Spectators were not disappointed as Paralympic hopefuls crushed 57 world and 173 championship records in the ten-day blitzkrieg for the coveted podium.
Oscar the "Blade Runner" Pistorius locked horns with long-time rival Jerome Singleton. Determined to bring home the gold for the United States in the men's 100m T44, Singleton told the IPC, "Oscar's a fast man, and I really appreciate running with him. But the fastest man on no legs is going to have to beat the fastest man on one leg. It's time to do it."
Tensions mounted at the start of the race, causing medal contender Jim Bob Bizzell to disqualify with a false start. As with the race in Beijing in 2008, Singleton hammered out the better start only for Pistorius to close the gap as he barreled over the remainder of the track to the finish. Each athlete clocked in at 11.34 seconds, and after a lengthy deliberation, Singleton earned the narrow edge to win gold. South African Arnu Fouri captured the bronze.
Ever the competitor, Pistorius said in an Össur, Reykjavik, Iceland, press release, "[Singleton] really is a phenomenal athlete...but I still think I may come and get it back from him another day." In addition to the silver he won in the 100m, the South African sprinter won gold in the men's 200m, 400m, and the 4x100m relay T44 class.
Other highlights included the men's 200m T42 race, when relative newcomer and decided underdog, bilateral lower-limb amputee Richard Whitehead of Great Britain, not only won the race, he also set a lifetime best and new championship record. The world-record holder in the marathon for a lower-limb amputee, Whitehead's explosive win in the shorter distance was unexpected. "I had to work hard to attack the bend before accelerating into the finish.... The opportunity was there, and I really wanted to smash it," he is quoted as saying in an Össur press release.
Australia's Kelly Cartwright, who lost a leg to cancer at age 15, crushed the long jump F42 world record to win gold. Cuban sprinter Yunidis Castillo earned a stunning gold hat trick in the women's 100m, 200m, and 400m, in the T46 upper-limb amputee class.
Defending Paralympic gold medalist, transtibial amputee Jeff Skiba captured the silver medal by leaping 1.96m in the men's high jump F44. He told the IPC, "You can't be unhappy with a medal, but this definitely makes me hungry for gold in London."
China went home with the largest medal tally, earning 58 medals overall, with 21 gold, 22 silver, and 15 bronze. Russia captured 18 gold, 11 silver, and six bronze, for 35 medals overall, and Great Britain ranked third, winning 38 medals overall, with 12 gold, nine silver, and 17 bronze.
Though the 2012 Paralympics will host close to 4,000 athletes from roughly 150 nations and is expected to draw 1.6 million attendees, it's hard to imagine a more exciting competition than the record-shattering events at Christchurch.