Blackwell, Malone crowned world champions on Team USA’s five-medal second day
by Kristen Gowdy
PARIS, FRANCE – In a strong second day of competition for Team USA at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships, the Americans brought home five medals, including golds from yesterday’s championship record-setters Jaydin Blackwell (Oak Park, Michigan) and Noah Malone (Fishers, Indiana). Paralympians Liza Corso (Newmarket, New Hampshire), Susannah Scaroni (Tekoa, Washington) and Nick Mayhugh (Manassas, Virginia) rounded out Team USA’s medal haul with a silver and two bronzes, respectively.
After each racing to meet records in their respective 100-meter prelims yesterday, Blackwell and Malone responded with victories in the men’s 100-meter T38 and T12 races, claiming the first two world titles of the competition for Team USA.
A three-time Paralympic medalist, Malone’s time of 10.54 seconds beat out the rest of the competition by just over one-third of a second as he raced to his first career world championships title and first career individual title at a major international event.
For Malone, who four years ago in his world championships debut was eliminated in the semi-finals of the event, the win was redeeming.
“A lot of life has gone into this moment, and words can’t really describe it,” Malone said. “This is just a stepping stone for next year, but for now I’m going to enjoy it. Next year is when it really, really counts at the Games, but for now I’m excited to be a world champion.”
Blackwell, meanwhile, racing in his first international meet, put together a 10.92-second 100-meter to edge silver medalist Dening Zhu of China by .08 seconds. Mayhugh, a four-time Paralympic medalist at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, took bronze in 11.14 for Team USA’s first double podium of the event. Teammate Ryan Medrano (Savannah, Georgia) competed alongside Blackwell and Mayhugh in his first meet final and placed sixth.
The 19-year-old Blackwell dedicated his race to his family, and specifically his grandmother. He will return for the 400-meter T38 prelims on July 12.
“[This being my first final] I was nervous in the call tent, my heart was racing, but I told myself that I had this, and to just run and push and get that gold,” Blackwell said. “That one was for my grandmother, she’s up there watching me. I did all of this for them, for my teammates, for USA, for my friends and family watching back home. They’ve pushed me to be the best I can be, through all the good and bad.”
Mayhugh’s bronze was the first world championships medal of his career in his worlds debut. The 26-year-old is set to return for the 400-meter T38 alongside both Blackwell and Medrano.
On her 20th birthday, Corso raced to her first career world championships medal, taking silver in the women’s 1500-meter T13. In a combined class race, the Paralympic silver medalist set the T13 championship record despite finishing just milliseconds behind T12 runner Fatima El Drissi of Morocco. Both runs were championship records in their respective classes.
Corso, who also took silver in her signature event at Tokyo 2020, stayed with the top pack of runners the entire race before pulling ahead alongside El Drissi in the final lap. The Lipscomb University athlete finished in 4:22.50.
“I was just trying to stay with the pack until the last lap or so before trying to kick it home,” Corso said. “I couldn’t do any of this without any of the girls on my college team or the amazing coaches there as well, so just wanted to give them a shoutout. It’s a big year next year with another world championships and a Games, so I’m really going to be focusing on being prepared for it all.”
Putting an exclamation mark on an already prolific season, Scaroni snagged Team USA’s first medal of the competition, bronze in the women’s 5,000-meter T54 race. The two-time Paralympic medalist, who was one of the breakout stars at Tokyo 2020, battled to the finish line alongside the lead pack that also included Manuela Schaer of Switzerland and Catherine Debrunner of Canada, and finished in 11:09.14, just off the lead pace set by Debrunner, who finished in a championship record 11:07.22.
“It was a really fun race for me, I felt really strong,” she said. “Throughout the race, I was trying to assess peoples’ speed and strength and trying to create a gap between the top three and the rest of the group. It worked, I wish I could have sprinted to a different position than third, but I’m very happy with it.”
Scaroni chose to wrap her world championships competition after this morning’s race in order to attend the ESPY awards, for which she is nominated in the Best Athlete With a Disability category for the first time in her career.
She said the decision to attend the awards, while a difficult one, was important to her because of the opportunity to represent Para athletes in a space where there traditionally has not been as much representation.
“It means a lot to me,” she said. “To have these kind of recognitions, I love that it recognizes all of the resources I’ve had in my career, so it’s an honor to get to do. I just want to use my platform to continue to allow people to have resources to have opportunities like this.”
Paralympian Beatriz Hatz (Lakewood, Colorado) opened her second career championships with her best-ever finish at a major international competition. Her fourth-place result in the women’s long jump T64 bettered the fifth she earned at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, and improved her best world championships result from fifth in the 200-meter in 2019.
With a best jump of 5.03 meters, Hatz was .35 meters off the bronze medal mark set by Maya Nakanishi of Japan. In a tightly contested competition, second through fourth place was decided by .37 meters.
Hatz will return to the track for the 100-meter T64, which will be contested July 13.
Also recording his best career finish at a world championships was 18-year-old Paralympian Ezra Frech (Los Angeles, California), who placed fourth in the men’s long jump T63. Frech set an Americas record of 6.62 meters en route to a solid improvement on his back-to-back eighth-place finishes in the event in Tokyo and at the 2019 world championships. Frech still has the 100-meter T63 and his signature high jump T63 left on his competition slate in Paris.
After making his first national team this season, Devin Huhta (Battle Mountain, Nevada) wrapped his worlds debut with a top-six finish in the men’s shot put F12. Huhta’s 13.42-meter best throw was just .16 meters behind Serbia’s Stefan Dimitrijevic, who placed fifth.
“I’m proud of myself, but I’m a little sad at the same time because I didn’t feel like I did the best that I could do,” Huhta said. “It’s my first time here, and it’s a learning experience. I’ve seen what I have to do – there are some guys in my class who are animals. I look forward to the grind, and we’re going to catch them.”
For Huhta, representing Team USA on the international stage for the first time was especially meaningful because his father passed away just two weeks before competition began in Paris. Huhta credited his father for his work ethic.
“It was a torrent of emotions,” he said. “It was crazy because my father passed away just a couple of weeks ago, so I’ve been staving a lot of stuff off to go to work and compete. He gave me my work ethic, so I thank him for that.”
Competing in her first event finals at a world championships, Erin Kerkhoff (Coralville, Iowa) finished sixth in the women’s 100-meter T13, finishing the race in 12.81 seconds. Kerkhoff, a varsity athlete at the University of Northern Iowa and a 2020 Paralympian, is slated to return for both the 200-meter and 400-meter T13 races.
Rounding out Team USA’s results and the only American competing in a prelim heat today was three-time Paralympic medalist Brittni Mason (Cleveland, Ohio), who won her heat of the women’s 100-meter T47 to qualify for tomorrow’s final. Mason is looking to defend the world championship title she won in the event in 2019.
Competition at Charléty Stadium resumes July 11 at 9 a.m. local time. For viewers in the United States, all sessions are streamed live on Peacock, and live results can be found here. For live updates and results from Team USA, follow U.S. Paralympics Track & Field on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
For media requests and photo inquiries, please contact Kristen Gowdy at Kristen.Gowdy@usopc.org.
Team USA Medals – July 10
Jaydin Blackwell – men’s 100-meter T38
Noah Malone – men’s 100-meter T12
Liza Corso – women’s 1500-meter T13
Nick Mayhugh – men’s 100-meter T38
Susannah Scaroni – women’s 5000-meter T54