Paris 23: Dening Zhu saves the best for last on Bastille Day

Chinese long jumper defends his title in a morning session which saw Iran's Saeid Afrooz set a new world record and more gold from legends Hug and Tlili 14 Jul 2023
A man landing in the sand pit in a long jump event
China’s Dening Zhu landing in the sand pit of the Charlety Stadium to secure his 2023 world title
ⒸFlorent Pervillé/WPA 23 LOC
By Mary Barber | For World Para Athletics

China’s Dening Zhu saved the best for last to land a gold medal in the men’s long jump at the Paris 23 World Para Athletics Championships on Friday (14 July) the National Day of France - Bastille Day.

The Paralympic, world and Asian Para Games champion leapt 20 centimetres further than his previous attempts to overtake his compatriot Huanghao Zhong in 6.78m.

The thrilling final in the men’s T38 category was one of six titles handed out in the morning session of day seven at the Charlety Stadium, where the French fans also enjoyed the national holiday. 

Among the highlights was Iran’s Saeid Afrooz setting a new world record in men’s javelin and second golds of the championships for Switzerland’s “Silver Bullet” wheelchair racer Marcel Hug and Tunisia’s throwing legend Raoua Tlili.

In the long jump arena, Zhong had come agonisingly close to beating Zhu and winning his first major title on the world stage. The 25-year-old has been second behind his teammate at Tokyo 2020, the Dubai 2019 World Championships and the Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games. 

Zhong had been leading for much of the competition following his season’s best jump in the second-round of 6.70m but had to settle for silver again after Zhu’s massive final jump. 

Elsewhere on the field, javelin thrower Saeid Afrooz soared into the history books with a new world record in the men’s javelin F34 final.

The reigning Paralympic champion’s third round throw of 40.27m was nearly two metres longer than the previous world record set by Colombia’s Mauricio Valencia in 2018.

Three-time Parapan champion, Valencia, who finished second behind Afrooz in Tokyo 2020, took home silver in 38.01m. His compatriot Diego Meneses threw a lifetime best in 37.84m.

Tlili does it again

Out on the track, Hug put in yet another brilliant performance in the men’s wheelchair T54 to add the 1500m to the 5000m gold he won earlier this week. It was his 11th world championship title, and his first at 1500m, to add to his six Paralympic golds.

The 37-year-old came out strong on the inside lane closely pursued by Canada’s Brent Lakatos. The 11-time world champion had tried to stop Hug from dictating the race, but the Swiss athlete pulled away on the home straight and finished in a championship record time of 2:51.32. Lakatos followed in 2:52.07 with Thailand’s reigning world champion Prawat Wahoram in bronze (2:52.18).

There was a second gold and a championship record for Tunisia’s Tlili in the women’s discus F41 – she also won shot put F41. The favourite from the start, the six-time Paralympic and world champion, threw 37.00m. Her nearest rival was Morocco’s Youssra Karim with a 35.42m followed by Ecuador’s Estefany Lopez, who set an Americas record in 30.27m.

Indian shot putter Sachin Sarjerao Khilari won his first World Championships title and set an Asian record with his throw of 16.21m. The 33-year-old dethroned the reigning world champion Joshua Cinnamo who came second with his season’s best throw of 16.00m. South Africa’s Kerwin Noemdo secured bronze (15.30m). India has been outstanding in the field events at the championships with medals won in shot put, high jump, long jump, discus and javelin.

Ukraine’s Yaroslav Okapinskyi also won his first world championship medal in the men’s 400m T37. The 24-year-old, who came fourth in the 200m T37, fought off a challenge from Poland’s Michal Kotkowski to set a lifetime best of 52.23. There were season’s bests for Kotkowski, who took silver in 52.62, and Brazil’s Bartolomeu Da Silva in bronze (53.04).

Complete schedule, and results from the Paris 23 World Championships are available here.

Paris 23 is streamed live on the World Para Athletics Facebook page with geo-blocking restrictions in certain territories. More information is available here.