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Leo-Pekka Tahti and Marc Schuh gear up for Swansea showdown

The ‘Flying Finn’ and the ‘Pocket Rocket’ are ready to renew their rivalry at August’s IPC Athletics European Championships

Two male athletes in racing wheelchairs on track, smile to the camera Leo-Pekka Tahti and Marc Schuh will face each other in the 100m, 200m and 400m T54 races © • Luc Percival
By IPC

“It’s very interesting to go to the big competitions. I expect a very tough race in Swansea, absolutely. I’ll have to be at my best to achieve what I want to achieve.”

Leo-Pekka Tahti and Marc Schuh insist they are both ready to steal the show as they gear up for a Swansea showdown at August’s 2014 IPC Athletics European Championships in Swansea, Great Britain.

‘The Flying Finn’ Tahti will face German counterpart Schuh – known as the ‘Pocket Rocket’ – in the 100m, 200m and 400m T54 races.

Tahti got the better of Schuh in the 100m at June’s IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Berlin, Germany, clocking 14.38 seconds to take gold ahead of Schuh, who finished second in a time of 14.65.

But when it comes to the 200m, there is literally nothing to split them – guaranteeing fans a red-hot race in August.

Schuh said: “I’m a 200m and 400m specialist – on the 400m I have the European record, and on the 200m Leo and myself have the exact equal time.

“Kenny Van Weeghel is a little in front, but me and Leo will be fighting until the finish line.”

Tahti, world record holder in the 100m T54, insists he can continue to improve ahead of the European Championships.

The three-time Paralympic champion said: “I’m getting better and better. I’ve had an improvement in my acceleration at the start, so I think I’m in the right place ahead of Swansea.

“There are some races next in Finland, and then I’ll try to put more focus on my training ahead of the European Championships. I’ll probably try to compete in England before Swansea, and after that I’ll be ready.”

Tahti’s achievements include three successive 100m T54 Paralympic titles dating back to Athens 2004 – as well as two gold medals from the same event in the World Championships in 2011 and 2013.

But despite all that experience, he is already looking forward to competing in Swansea.

He said: “I still get excited, it still gives me a buzz. It’s always a very high level in my class, especially in Europe. The level is very high and that’s why I have to wake up all the time.

“It’s very interesting to go to the big competitions. I expect a very tough race in Swansea, absolutely. I’ll have to be at my best to achieve what I want to achieve.”

For Schuh, the European Championships could provide a chance to claim his first major gold medal after missing out at the Paralympic Games and World Championships.

Schuh said: “This year is going really well, way better than 2012 – which was my worst year – and also better than 2013. It’s really going well and I’m looking forward to the European Championships now.

“I enjoy the big events. I keep my focus, try to remove the crowd from my mind and really stay focused. I just hope I don’t get too nervous.

“The 400m is really hard to predict. We have four really good athletes in that race – David Weir, Marcel Hug, Kenny van Weeghel and myself – and at the Swiss nationals, we were all within 0.3 seconds of each other, so ahead of the European Championships we’ve already found out we’re all at the same level. It should be a great race.”

Tahti and Schuh are two of 560 athletes from 39 countries competing at the Swansea 2014 IPC Athletics European Championships between 18-23 August.

Tickets for the event at Swansea University are now on-sale and can be purchased via the Swansea ticket website. Prices start from £3 per session.

Media accreditation for the event is also now open via the Swansea website.

Leo-Pekka Tahti and Marc Schuh at Berlin Grand Prix 2014

Leo-Pekka Tahti and Marc Schuh at Berlin Grand Prix 2014

Libby Clegg sends home crowd into raptures at Glasgow 2014

Dan Greaves, Fanie Van Der Merwe and Ollie Hynd also take gold on Monday (28 July) in para-sport events at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Two runners cross the finish line in a stadium Libby Clegg of Scotland and her guide Mikail Huggins cross the line to win gold in the women's T12 100 metres final at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games © • Getty Images
By IPC

“The people of Scotland have been great for me and I’ve loved the support.”

There was huge delight for the home crowd on Monday (28 July) at Glasgow 2014 as Scotland’s visually impaired sprinter Libby Clegg won the home nation’s first Commonwealth Games track gold for 20 years.

Elsewhere, there was also gold medal joy for England’s Dan Greaves in the discus F42/44, South Africa’s Fanie Van Der Merwe in the 100m T37 and England’s Ollie Hynd in the men’s 200m individual medley SM8.

The loudest cheer of the day though was reserved for Clegg and her guide Mikail Huggins at Hampden Park as they won gold in the women’s 100m T11/12.

Clegg, the reigning Paralympic and world champion silver medallist, showed she is in great form to retain her European title next month with a dominant performance to finish in 12.20 seconds, just 0.07 outside of her personal best.

“I was totally aware of the crowd beforehand and it was so uplifting,” Clegg told www.scottishathletics.org.uk.

“We’ve ran well in both races today and I am happy with the performance and the time. I didn’t realise it was Scotland’s first track Gold at a Commonwealth Games since 1994 [Yvonne Murray]. Wow. That’s a big thing.

“The lap of honour took a fair bit of time because we kept meeting people. I met old friends from school, my mum, my dad, my boyfriend, family of Mikail [Huggins, guide runner] and everyone was so happy for us. We will savour this moment and then look to the Europeans.”

Huggins, Clegg’s guide runner, said “We did it together and we ran well. At about 60m I had the feeling it was in the bag. I just told Libby that we could keep it controlled and we’d win.

“The people of Scotland have been great for me and I’ve loved the support.”

Silver went to Mozambique’s Maria Muchavo (13.33) (guide: Anelton Tinga) and bronze Namibia’s Lahja Ishitile (13.48) (guide: David Ndeilenga).

One of the closet contests of the day was the men’s discus F42/44 with two athletes who are likely to star at next month’s IPC Athletics European Championships in Swansea, Great Britain, in action.

England’s 2004 Paralympic champion Dan Greaves (59.21m/1023 points) won gold with his third round throw, finishing just ahead of his good friend and Welsh team captain Aled Davies (46.83m/1012 points) in silver, who had led for the opening two rounds.

“I just need this to sink in now as it’s still a little bit of a whirlwind. I’ve won gold at the Paralympics, World and European Championships but it’s such an honour to represent England at the Commonwealth Games,” said Greaves.

“I’m fortunate this event is in the Games and we hopefully demonstrated para-disability sport as a tough, elite competition. There is only one position that I wanted to come home with and that was the gold medal so job done.”

Nigeria’s Richard Okigbzai (39.38m) set a personal best to win bronze.

The men’s 100m T37 saw South African athletes take the top two podium positions. London 2012 Paralympic champion Fanie Van Der Merwe (11.65) took gold, edging out teammate Charl Du Toit (11.89) into silver. Wales’ Rhys Jones (12.04) took the bronze in a season’s best.

Over at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre, England’s Ollie Hynd won the men’s 200m individual medley SM8 in 2:22.86, just 0.10 seconds outside his own European record set last August.

The 19-year-old now holds the Paralympic, world, European and Commonwealth titles in the event and will head to Eindhoven, the Netherlands, next week confident of retaining his title at the IPC Swimming European Championships, which start on Monday (4 August).

"I was so close to my best time and am really happy with that," Hynd told BBC Sport online.

"I dropped a lot of time from this morning's swim and that was one thing I really wanted to do this evening. I have a good endurance base and that transfers well into the medley."

Silver went to Australia's Jesse Aungles (2:31.25) ahead of his team-mate Blake Cochrane (2:32.75).

More information can be found on the Glasgow 2014 website.

Libby Clegg at Glasgow 2014

Libby Clegg at Glasgow 2014

Finland’s Henry Manni targets four golds at Swansea 2014

The T34 world record holder aims to land his first gold medals at August’s IPC Athletics European Championships.

Walid Ktila Tunisia's Walid Ktila is one of the biggest rivals of Finland's Henry Manni © • Getty Images
By IPC

With just three weeks to go until the IPC Athletics European Championships in Swansea, Great Britain, Finland’s T34 wheelchair racer Henry Manni has sent out a clear message to his rivals warning he is confident of landing four gold medals once competition gets underway on 19 August.

The 22-year-old made his major international competition debut at last year’s World Championships in Lyon, France, competing in all T34 events from the 100m through to the 800m, finishing with a bronze in the 200m.

At Swansea 2014 he will complete in the same four events and believes that with his superior maximum speed, he will be the man to beat.

“It is my objective to win all the races in which I participate. I have all the European records from 100m through to the 1,500m so the target is realistic,” said Manni who has been in blistering form this season.

At May’s IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Nottwil, Switzerland, Manni became the first person to beat Tunisia’s world and Paralympic champion Walid Ktila, a habit he wants to make a regular occurrence by the time he reaches the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

“I have an extremely good training period behind me and the maximum speeds have risen well. I am sure that I am able to improve my result in the end of the season,” explained Manni who was inspired to take up wheelchair racing by the performances of his teammate Leo-Pekka Tahti.

“The European Championships are really important, but the main objectives are for future seasons. In 2015 we have our World Championships and at Rio 2016 I want to be invincible, so beating Ktila is always a big thing.”

Closer to home, Manni knows that to land his first major international gold medal at Swansea 2014 he will have to beat the Netherlands’ Stefan Rusch, the defending 100m and 200m European champion.

“We were in Tenerife in January at the same time on the training camp. Stefan is a hard resistance on 100m and I do not underestimate him at all. I am sure that he also is able to improve his results this season too,” said Manni.

“The hardest challenge is probably going to be given by Bojan Mitic however. My little brother Tuomas Manni may also be a surprise danger as well in Swansea.”

Manni says his strongest distance is the 200m, but hopes that with faster starts he can become a force to be reckoned with over 100m too.

Regardless of the distance, he thinks his desire to win will propel him to gold.

“My desire to win gives me extra motivation in every training session I have. At the starting line, it has a big significance how much you want to win. My desire of winning is really big but still I want to win honestly. The dishonest victory would not mean anything to me. I will believe that it is a great feeling to have gold medal in the European Championships.”

Manni will be one of 560 athletes from 39 countries competing at the Swansea 2014 IPC Athletics European Championships between 18-23 August.

Tickets for the event at Swansea University are now on-sale and can be purchased via the Swansea 2014 ticket website. Prices start from £3 per session.

IPC considering taking action against countries over doping

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is considering a range of actions to reduce the number of anti-doping violations in para-sport, particularly in powerlifting.

Anti-Doping London image The IPC will continue to educate athletes and their support staff on the importance of anti-doping. © • Getty Images
By IPC

"We take doping in sport extremely seriously and, as our testing programme clearly shows, we are 100 per cent committed to finding the cheats and suspending them from the sport."

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is considering taking action against National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) as part of a range of measures to reduce the number of anti-doping violations in para-sport, in particular the sport of powerlifting.

In the last 14 months alone, 13 powerlifters have been suspended for failing drug tests despite the IPC Powerlifting conducting more tests than ever before and implementing a comprehensive education programme for athletes and support staff.

As a result, the IPC and the IPC Anti-Doping Committee are now considering a range of actions it may take against a country that has repeatedly had athletes fail drugs tests.

The actions will be presented to the IPC Governing Board in October and, if approved, will be included in the new IPC Anti-Doping Code and will come into effect on 1 January 2015.

Imposing financial sanctions on an NPC and reducing the number of slots an NPC is allowed for athletes to compete in a particular sport at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games are just two of a range of actions the IPC is considering.

Xavier Gonzalez, the IPC’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Doping cheats, and those supporting them, have no place in IPC Powerlifting. We take doping in sport extremely seriously and, as our testing programme clearly shows, we are 100 per cent committed to finding the cheats and suspending them from the sport.

“We are disappointed with the high number of positive tests in recent years despite IPC Powerlifting’s best efforts to educate powerlifters and support staff around the world.

“We’re more disappointed however at the number of athletes across all sports who, during anti-doping hearings, have said they have received no education or support on anti-doping from their NPC, despite the fact that this is ultimately their responsibility.

“The IPC will be increasing our efforts further but the NPCs also must fulfil their obligations too.

“They have a duty to ensure their athletes are not cheating and are fully aware of the rules, especially in light of all the supplements that are out there. If they fail this duty, then they, as well as the athlete, may face a range of actions should an ant-doping violation occur.”

In 2013 in an effort to reduce doping in powerlifting, around 850 lifters and their support staff were educated on the importance of anti-doping at various competitions around the world as part of IPC Powerlifting’s “Raise the Bar – Say No! to Doping” campaign.

IPC Powerlifting also increased the number of tests, covering urine and blood, last year by 65 per cent on 2011, the previous non-Paralympic Games year.

To maintain a fair and consistent qualification pathway for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, the powerlifting qualification guide published last year also states that in addition to meeting the Minimum Qualification Standard, all athletes must attend at least one IPC approved powerlifting competition each year leading up to the Games.

Xavier Gonzalez, said: “Going forward, the IPC will continue to educate athletes and their support staff on the importance of anti-doping. We will conduct workshops and produce materials in a variety of languages to make it easier for athletes to understand the message.

“We will also be stepping up the number of tests we conduct each year, both in and out of competition, and covering blood and urine.

“But countries also have to act. No longer can they neglect their responsibilities when it comes to anti-doping education for athletes.”

NPC Filming Policy - Swansea 2014

Social Media Guidelines - Swansea 2014

Van Weeghel thrilled by Swansea 2014 rivalries

Dutch Paralympic champion is looking forward to facing some of the world’s best wheelchair racers at August’s European Championships.

Three wheelchair athletes pose with their medals in front of a Lyon branded background Van Weeghel beat his rival Leo Pekka Tahti in the 200m T54 at the World Championships in Lyon in 2013. © • T Quehen
By IPC

“Nothing can beat hard work and spirit. As long as you are able to stay motivated to give it all, there will always be a chance for you to win. The biggest challenge however will always be competing against yourself.”

Dutch wheelchair racer Kenny van Weeghel is relishing the opportunity to go head-to-head with his arch rival, Finland’s Leo-Pekka Tahti, when the pair line up at the IPC Athletics European Championships in Swansea, Great Britain, in just four weeks’ time.

The two wheelchair racers have built up a thrilling rivalry over recent years, highlighted at last year’s IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France, where they both lined up in the 100m and 200m T54.

In the first race, the 200m T54, it was the Dutchman who powered to the line first, taking gold in 25.10 seconds with the Finn less than half a second behind.

But two days’ later Tahti exacted his revenge, crossing the line ahead of van Weeghel in the 100m T54 to underline his credentials as the world record holder and Paralympic champion.

Twelve months on, and the scene is set for another captivating duel as both athletes prepare to head to Swansea with European titles to defend.

But battling for first place does not faze the 33-year-old – instead, he relishes every chance he has to line up in a world-class field.

“I enjoy facing the best of the best in my events. Nothing beats a race where we finish within hundredths of a second of each other,” explained van Weeghel who beat Pekka over 200m at May’s IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Nottwil, Switzerland.

“Athletes like Leo-Pekka Tahti have a lot of talent but in order to work with your talent you need to put a lot of hard work and effort into it.

“These hundredths of a second keep us motivated to keep improving our racing. It makes it a great challenge each time we meet.”

Four-time Paralympic champion Tahti has also shown that he is more determined than ever, competing at the IPC Grand Prix meetings in Switzerland, Italy and Tunisia already this year.

And van Weeghel is well aware of the strengths and abilities of his opposition, making the next few weeks training and preparation all the more important. There is no time for camaraderie when there are medals to be won.

“Leo is a fantastic athlete. Off track we are good friends, but as soon as "on your marks" is announced, of course I want to win,” he said.

“Every athlete has a strength and Leo's start is just incredible. It will be fantastic to meet him in Swansea and compare my hard work to his hard work.”

Van Weeghel takes on the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m at the European Championships – a busier schedule than usual – but it is a challenge he feels ready for.

“After a fantastic World Championships in Lyon, we set out to make some changes in our training and goals. One of the changes was increasing the effort on the longer distances,” he explained.

“I was really looking forward to see how I could perform outside of a single lane. After a lot of years pure sprinting I was excited to try something new.

“Having success at the European Championships over the years is wonderful, but to me it is still about improving my own skills and PB’s. This is one of the reasons for trying to increase the efforts on the longer distances.”

In fact van Weeghel has already shown an affinity to the longer distances – and he is no stranger to the one lap sprint, having won London 2012 400m silver behind China’s Zhang Lixin – and gold, eight years prior to that, in Athens.

But the four-time Paralympic medallist is still careful to leave no stone unturned, having competed over the longer distances since the start of the IPC Grand Prix Series back in Dubai in February, where he set new personal bests in the 400m, 800m and 1500m.

“Every distance has something special from the 100m to the 1500m. But my best event is the 200m. I am very eager to find out if it’s possible for me to get another set of medals,” he added.

It is not just the ‘Flying Finn’ that he has to watch out for in Swansea with the likes of middle and long distance stars David Weir, Marcel Hug and Marc Schuh also likely to battle for medals.

“We still have got some fine tuning to do. So I am back on my training track in the Netherlands,” van Weeghel added.

“We have got some preparation competitions in the beginning of August to get my speed back after my weeks of training. And at the 18 August I will be ready to face Leo, Marc, Marcel, David and all other competitors for a good show. I am looking forward to it.

“Nothing can beat hard work and spirit. As long as you are able to stay motivated to give it all, there will always be a chance for you to win. The biggest challenge however will always be competing against yourself.”

Van Weeghel will be one of 600 athletes from 40 countries competing at the Swansea 2014 IPC Athletics European Championships between 18-23 August.

Tickets for the event at Swansea University are now on-sale and can be purchased via the Swansea ticket website. Prices start from £3 per session.

Josie Pearson excited by Swansea 2014

Paralympic and world champion looking forward to biggest and best ever IPC Athletics European Championships

British stars Josie Pearson, Aled Davies, Hannah Cockroft, Richard Whitehead and Nathan Stephens get behind Swansea 2014. British stars Josie Pearson, Aled Davies, Hannah Cockroft, Richard Whitehead and Nathan Stephens get behind Swansea 2014. © • Swansea 2014
By IPC

“Competing on your home turf, and especially with it being so close to home and so close to where I train, makes the whole event very close to your heart."

Great Britain’s Josie Pearson reckons the 2014 IPC Athletics European Championships will be the “biggest and best ever” – and she cannot wait to be involved.

The 28-year-old discus and club thrower is hoping to replicate the gold medals she won at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and the Lyon 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships.

Pearson’s achievements have already earned her an MBE in the Queen’s 2013 New Year’s Honours List.

And she admits August’s European Championships are now starting to come into sharp focus, less than two months from the start of the event in Swansea, Great Britain.

Pearson said: “I’m definitely getting excited now; I can see them coming on the horizon. The European Championships are, for me, my main championships this year.

“Every year is a build-up to the next Paralympics and, while Rio is my main aim, the European Championships are a big part of my run up to Rio.”

A member of Great Britain’s wheelchair rugby team at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, Pearson has now established herself as the leading athlete in the women’s discus F51.

She currently holds the world record in the event, having recorded a throw of 7.09m last year in Lyon, France.

And after the experience of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Pearson admits she is delighted to be competing at a major event in front of home support.

She said: “The European Championships are on my doorstep this year, only 60 miles down the road, so it’ll be a nice change to be in a relaxed atmosphere on home turf.

“I know the Welsh guys have put a lot of effort into these Games, and I think they’ll definitely be the biggest and best European Championships that any of the athletes have seen.”

Pearson, who was involved in a road accident in 2003 that resulted in tetraplegia, is hoping to be roared on by a vociferous Welsh crowd in Swansea.

She said: “Competing on your home turf, and especially with it being so close to home and so close to where I train, makes the whole event very close to your heart.

“You know there’s going to be a lot of people there supporting you that are able to come and see the event.

“Knowing there’s going to be a lot of family and friends offering support, as well as the home nation support, gives a huge boost to any athlete.”

Pearson will be one of 560 athletes from 39 countries competing at the Swansea 2014 IPC Athletics European Championships between 18-23 August.

Tickets for the event at Swansea University are now on-sale and can be purchased via www.swansea2014.com/tickets. Prices start from £3 per session.

Media accreditation for the event is also now open via the Swansea 2014 website.