Paris 23: A Thursday of podium sweeps and a new high jump star

Jumper Ezra Frech breaks world record twice to take his first world title; Ambra Sabatini and Hannah Cockroft lead Italian and British triple podiums 13 Jul 2023
Three female athletes with prosthetic legs posing for a picture with the flag of Italy
Martina Caironi (left), Ambra Sabatini and Monica Contrafatto repeating the pose from their podium sweep at the Tokyo 2020 Games
ⒸMarta Gorczynska/World Para Athletics
By Mary Barber | For World Para Athletics

Sprinting superstar Ambra Sabatini became the first woman with an above the knee amputation to run the 100m in under 14 seconds when she led an Italian clean sweep of the T63 race at the Paris 2023 World Para Athletics Championships on Thursday (11 July).

On an historic evening at the Charlety Stadium, where six world records were broken, Sabatini crossed the line in 13.98 to beat the 14.02 time set by her compatriot Martina Caironi two years ago.

There were jubilant scenes in the stands when the 21-year-old powered across the line ahead of Caironi in 14.35 and their teammate Monica Contrafatto, who came third in a season’s best 14.67.

The trio celebrated by waving an enormous Italian flag to the cheering crowd. They also recreated their "Charlie's Angels" pose which they struck after their podium sweep at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

“Today my family is here, my father, my mother, my boyfriend and also my cousin. I am very happy to be here with them. They’re very supportive and now I hope to go and hug them all," an elated Sabatini said. "I have no words, I didn't expect it at all, it was a very difficult race. I have yet to realize that I set the record, it was a goal I've been looking for for a long time."

There was another clean sweep during the evening session that saw 12 titles handed out. Great Britain’s wheelchair racing legend Hannah Cockroft led her teammates to victory in the women’s 100m T34. It was the 30-year-old’s 12th World Championships gold to add to her seven Paralympic and four European titles. 

Cockcroft, who had earlier set a championship record of 16.67 in the heats, looked unbeatable from the start as she charged to the lead followed by her teammates, Kare Adenegan, a Paralympic and world silver medallist, and Fabienne Andre. They finished in 17.82 and 19.14, respectively.

“I am so excited that I could win that one,” said Cockroft, who won her first world title in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2011. 

“The pressure just gets bigger and bigger every single year. I think that’s the sixth consecutive World Championships that I have won the 100m and I didn’t know what I could deliver. I have got a championships record this morning and delivered another good time. I’m really happy.”

Flying Frech

There was also excitement off the track when USA’s Ezra Frech broke the world record twice in the men’s high jump T63. The 18-year-old was being coached by his teammate Robert Townsend-Roberts, who won his fourth world high-jump title this week.

On his last jump Frech broke the record and won gold at 1.91m but opted to go again and secured 1.95m. The teenager was supported in the crowd by a large group of fans wearing “Team Ezra” T-shirts from a project that he runs with his father, Angel City Sports, in Los Angeles. India’s Paralympic silver medallist Sharad Kumar set a championship record in 1.83 to come second.

There was also a double celebration for Frech’s teammate Jaydin Blackwell. The 19-year-old claimed his second gold and second world record of the championships when he clocked 48.49 in the men’s 400m T38. He had also smashed the record when he won the 100m T38.

In the last race of the session, the men’s 400m T52, another world record fell. Belgium’s Maxime Carabin dethroned the reigning world and Paralympic champion, Japan’s Tomoki Sato, in 54.19. Sato finished in 56.41.

The tidal wave of world records began at the very start of the evening by Ukraine’s Paralympic and world champion shot putter, Maksyn Kokval. Within minutes of the session opening, he went into the history books with a throw of 17.57m, which broke his own F20 world record by 23cm. 

His outstanding performance was followed by China’s Paralympic and world champion Li Liu. He threw 13.01m to break the shot put F32 world record and add gold to the silver he won in the club throw F32.

Elsewhere on the track, the Netherlands Fleur Jong won her second gold of the Championships in the women’s 100m T64 in 12.47 to add to her victory in the women’s long jump T64.

“It feels amazing. It feels like I’m actually the best in the world, wow!," Jong said with a smile. "I think Paris, the people, this stadium and the organisation are très magnifique”.

Hungary’s reigning Paralympic and world champion Luca Ekler retained her title in the women’s long jump T38 and set a championship record in 5.77m.

Cuba’s Paralympic legend Omara Durand won her 12th world championship title in the women’s 400m T12. The 31-year-old, who has also amassed eight Paralympic titles, crossed the line with her guide Yuniol Kindelan in 52.82. Venezuela's Alejandra Perez Lopez finished second and Italy's Valentina Petrillo third.

Thailand’s wheelchair racer Chaiwat Rattana staved off a challenge from Canada’s Austin Smeek in the men’s 100m T34 to win gold and an Asian record in 15.01. Smeek beat Tunisia’s reigning Paralympic and world champion Walid Ktila on the line to finish in 15.10. 

But on an evening of cheers there were also tears when Brazil’s Lorena Salvatini, the world champion bronze medallist, tripped and fell in the women’s 100m T11. Her teammate and world champion Jerusa Geber went on to retain her crown in 11.86.

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.