Rieti Grand Prix: Manni in Italy planning for Berlin

Finland's Paralympic medallist sets high targets for the season

Person in a wheelchair on a podium holding flowers Finland's Henry Manni on the podium at the 2016 Athletics European Championships © • Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Finland’s Paralympic bronze medallist Henry Manni believes his new coach and new training regime can help propel him to the top – starting with the Rieti Grand Prix in Italy this weekend (18-20 May).

Manni has been a regular on the podium in the men’s T34 wheelchair races since winning 200m T34 bronze at his first World Championships in 2013, but now he’s hoping his new set-up will provide the extra edge he needs to make it to the top.

The 25-year-old joined forces with coach Juha Heinänen after the London 2017 World Championships where he won 400m T34 bronze, a race won by Tunisia’s formidable racer Walid Ktila, who claimed no less than four gold medals in the British capital.

“I wanted to try a new coach because I wanted to make changes in my training,” explained Manni, who opens his season in Rieti at the fourth World Para Athletics Grand Prix of the year this weekend.

“We have changed the periodisation of my training and formed a multi-professional team. I’ve been satisfied with the changes and look forward to seeing their effects in competitions.

“I have not competed yet, but the trainings and tests have gone well. The goal is to get good races! I have made some big changes.”

Of course Manni has a major opportunity to go for gold later this summer at the Berlin 2018 European Championships, which take place in just over three months’ time.

The Finn won three golds and one silver medal at the last European Championships in Grosseto, Italy, two years ago and with no Ktila or Emirati Mohamed Al Hammadi present, he is a major favourite for gold once again.

Getting the best possible start to his season is key.

“The goal is to be in the best shape of the season at the European Championships,” added Manni.

“I enjoy competing. The bigger race, the better performance from me. I will compete in Switzerland (at the Nottwil Grand Prix), in the Berlin Grand Prix race and many times in Finland before the Championships. But of course a good start is the goal!”

Manni won a clean sweep of four golds at Swansea 2014, but lost out to Great Britain’s Isaac Towers over two laps in 2016. Although his focus has been on the sprints, he believes he is capable of reclaiming the 800m title this year.

“I have seven golds and one silver medal. Of course it means a lot but I don’t stress about it. I have always been relaxed at the European Championships. No stress, only good races!

“I've been training more 100 to 400m, but my neck is strong enough for a 800m gold medal, too.”