Paralympic star Evan O’Hanlon is set to take on able-bodied athletes for the first time at the Stawell Gift.Paralympic running superstar Evan O’Hanlon is set to take on able-bodied athletes for the first time at the Stawell Gift before challenging the best sprinters in the country at next year’s national championships.
After accomplishing everything his T38 discipline has to offer, the Canberra-based triple world champion and world record holder will take on all-comers at the 133rd running of the Gift over the Easter weekend in country Victoria.
O’Hanlon will have a 5.75m handicap for the 120m distance based on his personal best and world record time of 10.79 seconds.
It’s a time that would have been fast enough to book him a place in the finals of the men’s 100m at this year’s national championships.
The 25-year-old wants to build the profile of his sport and pave the way for disabled athletes to receive the same recognition as their able-bodied counterparts.
“I’m looking at this season as preparation for next year so I can qualify for able-bodied nationals and race against the big boys,” O’Hanlon said.
“At the nationals next year I really want to make it out of the heats, I don’t want to just qualify and run the heats and get run out.
”If I’m there, there’s other guys that will be able to do it in the future.”
O’Hanlon hasn’t raced since collecting a clean sweep of victories in the 100m, 200m and 400m at last year’s IPC world championships in July.
It was a competition he was barely fit to attend after contracting viral meningitis four weeks before it began.
O’Hanlon – who has cerebral palsy due to a prenatal stroke – spent three days in the emergency ward and was bed-ridden for another two weeks.
“My immune system was coping with it really well, then I ran a 400m race and it took it out of me and I ended up in hospital,” O’Hanlon said.
”I had really bad headaches and if I moved I threw up.
“I decided to go to world champs the day of or the day before we flew out.
“If anyone can deal with some swelling of the brain, it’s someone who is already missing part of it.”
O’Hanlon ran at the Stawell Gift in a disabled race in 2007 before the event was removed from the schedule the following year.
He says he is seeking to continually challenge and push himself after he struggled for motivation after dominating at the 2008 Paralympic Games.
”I had three and a half years where I didn’t compete very well because I was a bit lost – I was 20 years old and I had done everything I could in my sport,” O’Hanlon said.
”It took a couple of new challenges and ran in everything I could at the (2011) world championships, which allowed me to be re-focused leading into the London Paralympics in 2012.
“I’m going into Stawell with an open mind and I want to learn to race next to these guys.”
O’Hanlon is one of several Canberra-based athletes contesting the Stawell Gift.
The fastest woman in Australian history, Melissa Breen, will have a 10m handicap against the men, while Brendan Matthews (6.25m), Luke Storta (7.75m) and Jesse Matthews (9m) are also in contention.