Roderick Townsend-Roberts of the USA competes in the Men's High Jump T47 Final at the London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships.

Roderick Townsend-Roberts


The tall American is equally adept jumping high as he is long, winning medals at Paralympic Games and World Championships.

The talented multi-eventer was introduced to Para athletics by 2008 US Paralympic high jump champion Jeff Skiba and made his international debut at the Arizona Grand Prix in 2015.

Four months later, at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, he set a new world record in the high jump (2.12m) on his way to the first of two gold medals. He won gold in the long jump (7.18m) with an Americas record.

Two months after that, he won high jump T47 gold as well as silver in the triple jump T47, long jump T47 and 4x100m T42-47 relay the World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

At the Rio 2016 Games Townsend-Roberts clinched double gold, winning both the long jump (7.41m) and high jump (2.09m) T47, with Paralympic records in both. In fact, he was the only competitor to clear the two-metre mark in the high jump.

In April 2017 the former decathlete, who works as a jumps coach at Northern Arizona University, added one centimetre to his world record when he cleared 2.13m at the Mt SAC Relays in California.

Three months’ later he leapt to gold at the London 2017 World Championships, winning with a championship record clearance of 2.10m before bowing out at a new world record attempt of 2.15m.


Impairment information

Type of Impairment
Impaired muscle power

Further personal information

Wife Tynita Butts-Townsend
Louisville, KY, USA

Sport specific information

When and where did you begin this sport?
He took up Para athletics in 2014.
Why this sport?
He was introduced to Para athletics by US Para high jumper Jeff Skiba. "I knew I had a disability, but I didn't think anything of it. I had heard of the Paralympics before, but I thought the only people who did Paralympics were people with blades."
Name of coach
Jeff Petersmeyer [personal]
Training Regime
He lives and trains in Louisville, KY, with his wife Tynita Butts-Townsend, who has represented the United States of America in able-bodied high jump.

International debut

Competing for
United States
Grand Prix
Mesa, AZ, USA

General interest

The Jump Addict (Twitter profile, 01 Mar 2021)
Most influential person in career
Coach Jeff Petersmeyer. (, 22 Sep 2016)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"Where you are doesn't really matter when you really know where you want to be." (, 22 Sep 2016)
Awards and honours
In June 2015 he was named Male Athlete of the Month by the US Olympic Committee [USOC]. (, 08 Jul 2015)
Other sports
He competed in able-bodied athletics for Boise State University in Idaho, United States of America, having previously competed in decathlon for Delta Community College in Louisiana, Kentucky. He also captained his high school varsity American football team. (, 18 Oct 2015, 14 Aug 2015)
Famous relatives
His wife Tynita Butts-Townsend has represented the United States of America in able-bodied high jump, and finished eighth in the high jump at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar. (, 25 Feb 2021; SportsDeskOnline, 06 Aug 2020;, 07 Nov 2019)
To win a gold medal in the high jump at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. (, 07 Nov 2019)
He suffered permanent nerve damage to his right shoulder, neck and arm during birth. His right arm is significantly weaker thank his left as a result. "I was breached and the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck so the doctor had to break my collarbone and dislocate my shoulder. In doing so, he damaged all the nerves in my brachial plexus." (, 07 Nov 2019;, 08 Feb 2018;, 22 Sep 2016)
Other information
He considered retiring in 2018 as he felt burnt out after balancing work and his studies in the United States of America with competing in Para athletics. Instead, he decided to relocate from Arizona to Kentucky to work more closely with his coach Jeff Petersmeyer. "In 2018 I almost retired from track. I had already won two gold medals in Rio, set the world record multiple times, won world championships and I felt burnt out. After months of getting ready to throw in the towel, I finally took a second to ask, 'What my future self would think'? Up to this point, I was either a student-athlete or balancing working 50 hours a week as a coach along with a master's programme. I did not want to risk wondering what if anymore. Jeff Petersmeyer had coached me remotely for five years so I figured I'd go all in and make the move to be trained in person. I threw caution to the wind, and left my job at Northern Arizona University to relocate to Louisville, Kentucky, where I had no job, no place to live and no clue where the best pizza places were. I'm so happy I bet on myself and won. It would have been outside of my character to have given up because I felt uncomfortable." (, 30 Jun 2020)

He won gold medals in the T47 high jump and long jump at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, but said that he was unhappy with his performance in the high jump. "I was very disappointed with my high jump performance, especially going back and watching the film. It was really ugly. Being somewhat of a perfectionist I'm disappointed with the way I handled myself when it really mattered the most." (, 23 May 2017)

He has worked part-time as a substitute teacher, primarily in language, arts and maths, and has worked part-time as a pushback operator for American Airlines at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport in Kentucky, United States of America. He has also worked as a volunteer coach at the University of Louisville, and has served as a coach for his wife Tynita Butts-Townsend. (, 07 Nov 2019;, 04 Apr 2019)

From 2015 to 2017 he completed a master's degree in educational leadership at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ, United States of America. During the programme he also worked as a jumping coach at the university. (LinkedIn profile, 07 Apr 2017)


Unit Date Rank
IPC Athletics 2015 World Championships (Doha, Qatar)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's Triple Jump T47 Final 1 2015-10-26 2
Men's 100 m T47 Heat 1 2015-10-27 6
Men's 100 m T47 Final 1 2015-10-27 8
Men's Long Jump T47 Final 1 2015-10-28 2
Men's High Jump T47 Final 1 2015-10-29 1
Men's 4x100 m T42-47 Final 1 2015-10-31 2
Rio 2016 Paralympic Games (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's 100 m T47 Heat 1 2016-09-10 3
Men's 100 m T47 Final Round 2016-09-11 5
Men's Long Jump T47 Final Round 2016-09-14 1
Men's High Jump T47 Final Round 2016-09-16 1
World Para Athletics Championships London 2017 (London, Great Britain)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's 100 m T47 Final 1 2017-07-15 6
Men's 100 m T47 Heat 1 2017-07-15 6
Men's High Jump T47 Final 1 2017-07-16 1
Men's Long Jump T47 Final 1 2017-07-19 4