Paul Blake (coach: Rob Ellchuk) and Laura Sugar (Femi Akinsanya) have been named the team captains for IPC Athletics World Championships, which takes place at the Suhaim Bin Hamad Stadium between 22-31 October.
Blake, one of six reigning world champions in the 48-strong British Athletics team, will look to regain the T36 800m crown while also looking to go one better than silver he picked up in the T36 400m in Lyon two years ago.
However, for Blake he is determined to inspire the team just as his predecessor Richard Whitehead (Keith Antoine) did ahead of last edition of the championships, which saw the British contingent win 29 medals, including 11 gold.
Blake commented: “It was quite a surprise. I was waiting at the train station heading to training and Paula (Dunn) gave me a call which was a complete shock. She could have chosen a number of athletes on the team so it was quite an honour for me to be chosen.
“I’ve been lucky enough to go to the last two world championships so I have that experience. For the young guys coming through I can give them advice. I was honoured to win gold and two silvers at my first championship and the gold in 2013. If I can keep performing the way I am going, and hopefully help some of the other athletes achieve their best, then I feel like I’ve done my part.”
The 25 year old will once again line up against arch rival Evgenii Shvetcov, who won three gold medals at London 2012 and an impressive tally of four world titles at the IPC Athletics World Championships in 2013. Despite the Russian being the dominant force in recent years, Blake is determined to leave no stone unturned in his quest to add more silverware to his collection.
The 25 year old said: “I don’t race him much throughout the season at the Grand Prix events so when I do, it only makes me better. It obviously spurs him on to see me there as well. He is a really tough competitor and I’m still striving to beat him but he is a phenomenal athlete.
“He’ll be training just as hard as I am. It is what motivates me to work hard every day – I want to win the gold.”
Sugar meanwhile will make her second appearance at the IPC Athletics World Championships after a successful international bow in 2013, which saw her come fourth and fifth in the T44 100m and 200m respectively. The 24 year old believes her experience of the global stage will help the 14 new debutants deal with the pressure that comes with a major championship.
The former Welsh hockey international said: “It is definitely a real honour (to be named captain). I didn’t expect to get the phone call from Paula (Dunn), so I was a bit shocked when she asked me to be captain. I am very proud and hopefully I will do a good job over the next few weeks.
“I was only new to the team in 2013, so I will share some of my first experiences and what it’s like. We’ve got a lot of new members in the team and I think it’s about making them feel welcome and inspiring them to go out, enjoy it and do well next week.
As with Blake, the dominant force in Sugar’s class is reigning double world champion Marlou van Rhijn, who has set new world record marks of 12.82 and 25.64 in the sprint events. While admitting the Dutch athlete is the leading contender for gold, Sugar is determined to add to the two medals she won at last summer’s IPC Athletics European Championships in Swansea.
“With my event everyone is here and especially in the 100m it’s going to be really tight. We’ve obviously got Marlou (van Rhijn), who is quite a way out in front at the moment, but anything is possible.
“Behind her, there is a blanket of about 10 people. First job is to make the final and second is getting up there amongst the medals. I know if I can run a PB or get close to it, I’m going to be competitive especially right at the end of the race. I’ve just got to go out there, put myself out in the mix and hopefully run myself into a medal.”
Paralympic Head Coach Paula Dunn added: “When choosing the captains for the trip, Laura and Paul were two of the standout names and I have no doubt that they will draw on all their experience to inspire a group which has not only a number of global medallists, but also a large crop of newcomers to the camp.
“It’s really exciting to be back on the world stage and Doha marks a real stepping stone on the road to Rio and also the IPC Athletics World Championships in London in two years’ time. This will be an opportunity for the athletes to put a real marker down ahead of another busy time for the sport.”
You can view the full British Athletics team here: https://www.britishathletics.org.uk/media/news/2015-news-page/september-2015/17-09-15-doha-team/
A live stream will be available throughout the course of the IPC Athletics World Championships here: https://www.paralympic.org/doha-2015
Over two hours of live coverage each day will also be available to watch on More4.