The USA’s Isaac Jean-Paul announced himself as a rising star at the World Para Athletics Championships on Tuesday (18 July), breaking the world record three times on his way to gold in the men’s high jump T13.
The 24-year-old had provided an indication of just what he might be capable of when he qualified for his first World Championships with a new world record of 2.10m at June’s US Trials.
After opening in London at 2.00m – after the rest of the field had been eliminated – he didn’t disappoint, clearing 2.11m.
The American then cleared 2.14m at his first attempt, before going on to break the world record for a third time in one night, going over at 2.17m. The bar was then set at 2.20m, but he didn’t manage to clear the height - this time.
“I could not hope for a better result,” said Jean-Paul. “I was thinking about the world record but in the competition, I just knew I wanted to go over the bar and jump these heights.
“Coming to this stadium, I just wanted to jump and to have fun. I’m glad I managed to break the record in this beautiful stadium with these great fans.”
The USA’s medal haul continued as Breanna Clark (56.33) danced with delight after smashing her own world record in the women’s 400m T20.
The Paralympic champion went out strongly and never looked back, battling to the line to take 0.38 seconds off the mark she set at the US Trials in June.
“To break the world record - it is awesome. It is better than Brazil. I have been here to this stadium for the first time last year so this is my second time and I love it. I love dancing so I danced when I crossed the finish line - I also did at the US trials,” said Clark.
Athletics is clearly in the genes – Clark’s mother Rosalyn represented the USA at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, winning 4x400m relay silver. And it was her mother who was at the forefront of her mind after she crossed the line.
“My coach and my mum are the ones who encouraged me to fight for this medal but they are not here with me. I must say ‘Thank you Mum!’” exclaimed the delighted 22-year-old.
There was a world record too for Trinidad and Tobago’s Akeem Stewart in the men’s javelin F44. The F43 thrower added 29cm on to the mark he set at Rio 2016 thanks to his second-round effort of 57.61m.
Back on the track, Jason Smyth (21.40) notched up a spectacular sprint double as he clocked the fastest time this year to win the 200m T13. The Irishman was quickly out the blocks to take an early lead and the real battle for the medals took place behind him.
Namibia’s Johannes Nambala (21.81) and Poland’s Mateusz Michalski (21.86) ran shoulder-to-shoulder down the final 50m but it was Nambala, gold medallist in 2015 in the absence of Smyth, who lunged over the line just in front to take silver.
Like Smyth, China’s Guohua Zhou (12.16) secured the sprint double with a win in the women’s 100m T11. Teammate Yiting Shi (28.92) added another gold for China with a championship record in the women’s 200m T36.
There was major drama at the end of the men’s 400m T12 as Brazil’s defending champion Daniel Silva, just in front coming down the home straight, struggled to keep up his fast early pace.
With 20m to go Frenchman Timothee Adolphe took the lead, then Silva stumbled and fell to the ground just as Adolphe also began to lose his footing. Both athletes crashed to the floor before the line and Spain’s Gerard Descarrega Puigdevall (51.46) came through for gold with China’s Dongdong Di (53.38) claiming silver.
Brent Lakatos (47.56) added the 400m T53 title to his win over 200m 48 hours earlier after a superb push down the home straight. The Canadian was beaten to the line by Pongsakorn Paeyo at Rio 2016 and the Thai racer went out strongly this time. However, Lakatos came off the final bend strongly and pushed hard all the way to the line.
“I did not expect to win that, I knew it was going to be close but I had nothing to lose,” said Lakatos, who set a new championship record.
"It feels amazing to win this. I went to Rio full of confidence and I got beat. It is great to prove that I'm still there in this event at 37.”
Japan’s Tomoki Sato (56.78) timed his finish to perfection in the men’s 400m T52, pushing past the USA’s Paralympic champion Ray Martin down the home straight to defend the title he won two years ago with a new championship record to boot.
“I was scared when he went past me so fast at the beginning. I wanted to get back to him by 200m but I couldn’t catch him till we entered the straight, then I knew I was OK,” explained Sato.
“This is a big step towards Tokyo for me. It wasn’t perfect but I am confident I will perform at my best there. There is still more to come from him - Ray is still young and getting better. It’s going to be a good race in Tokyo (Paralympic Games in 2020).”
Morocco’s Mahdi Afri (48.60) won the first track gold of the night, speeding round to set a new championship record in the men’s 400m T12 while Deja Young (12.39) notched up the USA’s third gold medal of the session with a win in the woman’s 100m T47.
South Africa’s double Paralympic champion Charl du Toit won the 200m T37 with a season’s best 23.27; not long after teammate Dyan Buis (22.67) charged through the field to win the men’s 200m T38 on the line, dipping in front of China’s defending champion Jianwen Hu just 0.02 seconds behind.
“I was running so fast I thought, ‘Please call the fire brigade, I’m on fire,” said a joyful Buis.
“The world is looking at South African athletics right now. We are on a high and we are loving our revival. We have a great vibe going among the sprinters and we’re all excited for the future of the sport in South Africa.”
There was a close finish too in the men’s 200m T54 as Tunisian Yassine Gharbi (24.86) came through in the final 20m to get the better of Finland’s 100m champion Leo-Pekka Tahti (25.05) and the Netherlands’ defending champion, Kenny van Weeghel (24.92).
Iran claimed all three podium places in the men’s javelin F57, led by Amanollah Papi who threw a season’s best 44.87m; teammates Mohammad Khalvandi (42.18m) and Abdollah Heidari Til (41.73m) won silver and bronze.
China dominated action out in the field on the morning session and Huimin Zhong added to that medal tally with gold in the javelin F11. The Doha 2015 gold medallist improved on her own championship record with a best of 26.05m.
Ukraine claimed their sixth gold of the championships thanks to Roman Pavlyk who won the long jump T36 with 5.63m and Ewa Durska (13.18m) added the world title to her Rio 2016 gold with a win in the shot put F20.
The World Para Athletics Championships will run through to 23 July. More than 1,150 athletes from 90 countries are competing in 202 medal events.
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