DOHA (AFP) - German champion para-athlete Markus Rehm has pleaded for the chance to compete against able-bodied competitors, ahead of the defence of his IPC world title on Saturday.
Rehm, also the Olympic champion and world record holder at the F44 (amputees) long jump, told AFP that his dream was to pit his talents against athletes outside the Paralympics.
"That's definitely a target," he said. "I want to show the world what we para-athletes are able to achieve, that's the whole point."
Rehm, 27, made headlines last year when he was dropped by the German team for the European Athletics championships despite recording the best jump, including able-bodied athletes, of 8.24 metres (27 feet).
He also broke his own world record this year, setting a distance of 8.29m, the seventh best leap of 2015 by any jumper, able-bodied or para-athlete.
German athletic bosses though claim Rehm, whose right leg was amputated following a boating accident aged 14, has an unfair advantage because of the prosthetic he wears.
Rehm denies that and his case has echoes of the claims of Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee South African runner, who went to court to compete in the 2012 London Olympics.
Rehm has kept away from the courts but has urged administrators to give him the chance to compete against his able-bodied competitors.
"I want to compete against able-bodied athletes, but I didn't want to go in front of the courts," he said.
"I really want to show the people that, for me, it is not about medals. I am really happy to win my medals, I am a paralympic athlete and that is not going to change my whole life, I am an amputee and I am really proud of being a paralympic athlete.
"I just want to bring the para-athletes and Olympic athletes a bit closer."
Rehm, from Leverkusen, says he does not know if his prosthetic gives him an advantage - and no one has been able to prove conclusively either way - but he is convinced it also is a hindrance.
"If it was that easy, why are no other athletes jumping over eight metres as well? If it was that easy and they have a prothesis the same as me, then other athletes could do the same.
"The prosthetic is not going to do anything on its own, it takes talent as well." One of his targets in Doha is to try and get near Briton Greg Rutherford's long jump-winning distance of 8.41m at this year's world championships.
"Of course I am looking to the world championships. Of course it's different conditions and everything is different, but, yeah, I compare myself to other athletes.
"I look at the world rankings, at how far they can go and how far I go, and that is definitely what I am looking for." Rehm's personal best would have secured silver at those championships.
NEXT BIG BARRIER
The International Association of Athletics Federation is expected to rule soon on whether paralympians such as Rehm could compete at the Rio Olympics next year, though the German holds out little hope.
He even offers to jump in Brazil next year without his distance counting towards the final result.
Rehm says he wants to break down "the next big barrier" in athletics.
For the World Championships competition on Saturday, Rehm says he is in good form and is confident.
"I am always able to jump an extra few centimetres in competition. I am really motivated and can't wait to jump."