Kobe 2024: Leon Schaefer, Sabrine Fortune save their best for last on rainy Sunday

German wins the men's long jump T63 world title for the third time in his last attempt while British thrower breaks the women's shot put F20 world record twice at the Kobe Universiade Memorial Stadium; China take four gold while Ecuador, Namibia, New Zealand, France, Georgia, Hungary and UAE top the podium for the first time 19 May 2024
A man with a prosthetic leg in a long jump competition
Leon Schaefer jumped for gold in the men's long jump T63 on Sunday at the Kobe 2024 Para Athletics World Championships
ⒸToru Hanai/Getty Images
By Kai Dambach I For World Para Athletics

The rain could not damper the parade on the third day of competition in Kobe on Sunday, from the starting gun to the final jump, especially the final jump.

The men’s long jump T63 came down to the final round to end the night. Going into the last jump, the Netherlands’ Joel De Jong and Germany’s Leon Schaefer were separated by just one centimetre, and they were the last to go. De Jong added two centimetres in his final jump to sneak ahead by the slimmest of margins. but Schaefer harnessed the last ounce of energy he had to launch himself 19 centimetres further than his previous best to a gold medal winning 7.22 metres, defending his Paris 2023 title.

“I’m good, I’m excited, glad that I took it home for the third time. It was good that he [De Jong] jumped further than me because I know I can jump a lot further. And I don’t know, but I just need the pressure. Feels good, I was like ‘ok boy, that’s what you’re made for, show them what you got,” Schaefer said.

Sabrina Fortune of Great Britain was the lone athlete to break a world record on the day. The championship record holder from Dubai 2019 managed to do it twice in the women’s shot put F20, pushing the new mark forward by 17 centimetres. Then, in her final throw, she added yet another 17 centimetres, setting the new standard at 14.73 metres.  

“I just had to tell myself [after the 14.56m world record] not to celebrate too early because that’s a PB in itself, but I knew if I overdid it, I wouldn’t throw any further. I had to keep a straight face, I kept going to grin, but I knew I had to hold it together right through the competition," Fortune explained. “I was over the moon with 14.73m. It’s hard to put into words how it felt to throw even further. I just wanted to run round and round in circles.”

Four for China

China kept finding their way to the top of the podium again, doing so four times on Sunday at Kobe Universiade Memorial Stadium.
The four-time Paralympic gold medallist Yao Juan had her best result of the season with a 43.09 metre toss in the women’s discus throw F64. In that same event, the Americas record fell thanks to Mexico’s Osiris Aneth Machado Plata’s third attempt, flying 40.35 metres and a silver medal. China picked up bronze as well, as Yang Yue’s best attempt travelled 38.72 metres, her best effort of the season so far.

China took the top two medals in the women’s javelin throw F34, as well as the new championship record. Zou Lijuan was the only athlete to better 20 metres, and she did so in every attempt. Her third attempt set the bar at 21.22 metres. Zuo Caiyun was consistently the second-best, as she set a season best 17.75 metres in her final throw.

It was another China one-two finish in the women’s 800m T53. Zhou Hongzhuan lead from the 200 metre mark and never gave it up. In fact, she added several seconds of difference between her and her fellow countrywoman Gao Fang in the final lap, as both set season bests in the two laps around the track.

China managed to grab another gold-silver finish in the women’s 200m T35. Zhou Xia and Guo Qianqian were the only athletes to finish in under 30 seconds, with Zhou setting a season best and Guo had a career best. Zhou took the top spot with a time of 29.45 seconds, and Guo followed 0.32 seconds later.  

After Sunday’s events, China remains on top of the medal table, as well as in all medal colours with ten gold, eight silver and eight bronze medals for a total of 26 medals overall. 

A Sunday of firsts

Mohamed Alhammadi of the United Arab Emirates won his first World Championships gold since Christchurch 2011 in the men's 400m T34, and the UAE’s first gold in this year’s competition.  The 2016 Paralympic champ in the 800m T34 just edged in front of Tunisia’s Walid Ktila at the last gasp by 0.02 seconds in a time of 51.10 seconds.

It was never in doubt for Germany’s Merle Marie Menje in the women’s 800m T54. She took control at the 200-metre mark and never looked back. Second to fourth place finished under 0.2 seconds apart, with China’s Zhou Zhaoqian and Tian Yajuan grabbing the silver and bronze, respectively.  

Despite the slick conditions, Roderick Townsend of the United States cleared the 2-metre mark in the men’s high jump T47. He passed over the bar in his final attempt at 1.99 metres to set up a duel with India’s Nishad Kumar, who never missed a jump on the night to that point. Townsend needed just two attempts to clear 2.05 metres, while Kumar could not quite keep up and had to settle for silver.

Chris Kinda of Namibia won his country’s first gold in the championships in the men’s 400m T11. He made up a 0.64 second difference going down the final straightaway to leap to the top of the podium in a time of 52.35 seconds. He said his victory was inspired by the country's first-ever Paralympic gold medallist.

"I was inspired by Ananias Shikongo [Rio 2016 winner in the men's 200m T11], it was through him that I discovered that I could also be here. Last year in Paris I didn't pass the semifinals, but this year I'm the world champion," Kinda said.

France’s Pierre Fairbank, a seven-time Paralympic medallist, found his way back to the top with a 51.71 time in the men’s 400m T53. This was France’s first gold medal in Kobe so far.

The women’s 400m T11 saw Brazil’s Thalita Vitoria Simplicio da Silva give it everything she got, falling just over the line for gold with a season best 57.45 seconds. The Brazilian team also took a second gold on Sunday with Andre Rocha in the men's discus F52. With their effort, the country has the second most gold medals and overall medals after three days of competition.

Ekler wins by 0.03 seconds

Ecuador, New Zealand, Georgia and Hungary also all earned their first gold medals in Kobe on Sunday. 

Ecuador’s Kiara Rodriguez set a season best in the women’s 100m T47 to put herself on top of the podium in 12.27 seconds. New Zealand’s William Stedman jumped two spots in the final 100 metres of the men’s 400m T36 to secure the gold medal with a personal best time of 53.36 seconds.

Giga Ochkhikidze of Georgia did so in the men’s shot put F53 by setting a championship record with an 8.79m toss, just five centimetres off the world record.

Hungary's Luca Ekler made her country proud by setting a season record while edging out Colombia’s Karen Tatiana Palomeque Moreno by 0.03 seconds to stand on top of the podium in the women’s 100m T38 final. 

Uzbekistan grabbed the second gold at Kobe 2024 this time with Yokutkhon Kholbekova in the women's long jump T12 with a 5.48m mark in her third attempt. Spain's Sara Martinez finished second and Uran Sawada put the host nation on the podium again in third.

Neutral Para athlete Denis Gnezdilov won the men's shot put F40 final with a new championship record (11.36m). Portugal's Miguel Monteiro took the silver medal while the bronze went to Iraq's Garrah Tnaiash.

Complete results, all medallists and records from Sunday are available here

The Kobe 2024 action can be watched live on the World Para Athletics Facebook page and the Paralympics YouTube channel.