A nine strong Irish team has been announced for the upcoming IPC Paralympic Athletics World Championships which are set to take place in Doha, Qatar from October 22nd – 31st. The team, which is sponsored by Allianz Ireland, comprises three male and six female athletes and features reigning double Paralympic champions Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop, in addition to London 2012 Paralympic medallist thrower Orla Barry.
This trio are joined by three time Paralympian and wheelchair racer at 100m & 400m John McCarthy. Five more female field athletes complete the team; Deirdre Mongan who debuted at the 2013 World Championships, alongside Noelle Lenihan, Niamh McCarthy, Lorraine Regan and Hayley Fitzsimons; all four competing in their first ever World Championships.
Double Paralympic gold medallist from London 2012 and Beijing 2008 Smyth will only compete in the 100m at Doha having just resumed racing following a long recovery from knee surgery in the early part of the year. The Derry man, who is also reigning World champion and record holder at 100m and 200m, was recently crowned the ‘fastest Paralympian on the planet’ defeating fellow leading Paralympic sprinters in a showcase race in Copacabana to mark the recent ‘one year to go’ until the 2016 Games milestone.
Speaking at the announcement Smyth said; “It’s great to be back on the track and feeling in good shape heading into the Worlds. It’s been a long year rehabilitating from surgery so I’m hoping I can end it on a high. I realised last year I have got to be one hundred percent, I can’t be running at ninety or even ninety five percent and apply maximum force so I’ve spent a lot of time getting over those injury problems and now it’s a case of continuing to put in the work and building on it over the next few months.”
Fellow reigning world champion and world record holder at 800m and 1500m Antrim’s Michael McKillop (T37 class) has also just recently returned to the track after a prolonged injury lay off and will be looking forward to defending his titles in Doha.
Discus silver medallist at last year’s European Championships Orla Barry (F57 Class) will face increased competition in Doha as the leading quartet of athletes in her class are all non-European based. Wheelchair racer John McCarthy (T51 Class) who competes at 100m & 400m has consistently been bringing his times down over recent years and will be targeting a top five finish in Doha.
Returning to a major championships for the first time since the birth of her daughter late last year shot putter Deirdre Mongan (F53 Class) is set to feature after moving to second in the world rankings following her new Irish record of 4.26m in Santry in July.
Fellow Corkonians and discus throwers Noelle Lenihan (F38 Class) and Niamh McCarthy (F41 class) will both be making their debuts for Ireland at a major international championship. At just fifteen years of age Lenihan is currently ranked third in the world and with a mere half a metre separating the leading quartet in her class it is set to be a tight affair. McCarthy is also ranked third in her class and has been making impressive progress since her emergence in early 2013.
Offaly’s Lorraine Regan who finished fifth at last year’s European Championships is hopeful of a strong placing at this her first Worlds while Hayley Fitzsimons from Waterford is competing for the first time in an Irish vest after the recent introduction of her event last year (F40 Class Shot Put).
Also speaking at the announcement Irish team manager and Head of Athletics at Paralympics Ireland James Nolan said: “This is a strong team with four of those selected having competed at multiple Paralympic Games. It’s also great to see some of the newer faces emerging to make the team. Heat and humidity will be an influencing factor in Doha will average temperatures set to lie around 35 degrees Celsius. The field athletes will be exposed to the elements most asa their competitions take over three hours to complete and most are set for early afternoon local time. However I’m confident they have done the necessary preparatory work to achieve success at this level. For some that will be podium positions while for others personal bests or seasons bests are the target.”
Over 1400 athletes from 100 countries are set to compete in 214 medal events in Doha, which will be held in the 12,000 capacity Suhaim Bin Hamam stadium in the Qatar Sports Club. The Irish team fly out on Saturday 17th October.
The Irish team is proudly sponsored by Allianz, an official sponsor of Paralympics Ireland.