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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
Origin of Impairment

Further personal information

Wife Tynita Butts-Townsend
Louisville, KY, USA
Airline Worker, Athlete, Coach, Teacher
Higher education
Boise State University: United States

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 Paralympics before, but I thought the only people who did Paralympics were people with blades."
Name of coach
Jeff Petersmeyer [personal], USA

International debut

Competing for
United States
Grand Prix
Mesa, AZ, USA

General interest

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
He was named Male Athlete of the Month for June 2015 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. 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. (, 07 Nov 2019; SportsDeskOnline, 06 Aug 2020)
To compete at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. (, 04 Apr 2019)
His brachial plexus was damaged during birth, which resulted in permanent nerve damage to his right shoulder, neck and arm. 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." (, 08 Feb 2018;, 22 Sep 2016;, 07 Nov 2019)
Other information
Despite winning gold in the T47 high jump and T47 long jump at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, he says he was not completely happy with his performance. "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 works part-time as a substitute teacher, primarily in language arts and maths, and also works part-time as a pushback operator for American Airlines at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport in United States of America. He also works as a volunteer coach at the University of Louisville in United States of America, and has served as a coach for his wife Tynita Butts-Townsend. (, 04 Apr 2019;, 07 Nov 2019)

He has studied for master's degree in educational leadership at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ, United States of America. (LinkedIn profile, 01 Jan 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