Team USA secures four medals, Clark breaks world record on fourth day of world championships action
by Kristen Gowdy
PARIS, FRANCE – Paralympic champion Breanna Clark (Los Angeles, California) set a world record and defended her world championship crown in the 400-meter T20 competition to lead Team USA on a four-medal day at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships in Paris, France.
Adding to the medal haul for the Americans were Paralympic medalists Cassie Mitchell (Warner, Oklahoma) and Hagan Landry (Delcambre, Louisiana), as well as Paralympian Erin Kerkhoff (Coralville, Iowa). Mitchell captured silver in the women’s discus F53, while Landry and Kerkhoff earned the first world championships medals of their careers – bronzes in the men’s shot put F41 and women’s 200-meter T13 races, respectively.
Over four days of competition, U.S. athletes have combined for 16 total medals and sit third overall in total medal standings behind only China and Brazil. Team USA’s four golds are tied for third-most among the more than 100 nations competing.
Earning Team USA’s lone world title of the day was Clark, who continued a streak of dominance in the women’s 400-meter T20 that dates back to the 2017 world championships, where she captured her first career world title. She has since won gold in every major competition in which she has competed, topping her own world record several times in the process.
Today was no different – Clark staved off a surge from Ukrainian Yuliia Shuliar in the second half of the race to win her third straight world championships title in the 400-meter. Her world record time of 55.12 topped the championship record of 55.51 that she set in yesterday’s prelim.
“I feel blessed and happy,” Clark said. “This year there has been big competition. I felt strong and empowered today during my run. I’m excited to get back here next year for the Paralympics."
Mitchell powered to her silver medal in discus with a best mark of 14.24-meters, setting an F51 championship record in the process. Despite the record, because her event was being contested as a mixed-class event, the eight-time world championships medalist earned the silver behind F53 athlete Elizabeth Rodrigues of Brazil.
Nevertheless, it was a season-best throw for Mitchell by nearly half a meter, and she said she was happy with her performance. She will return for the club throw later in the competition, the event in which she is the reigning Paralympic silver medalist.
“It wasn’t quite a personal best, but it was pretty close and I’m happy for it,” she said. “There are [F51s, 52s and 53s] out there competing, so to be in the medals as an F51, I’m very happy with that. I can’t really quite put into words how amazing it is to represent your country, to win a medal. I’m really looking forward to seeing the flag raised and celebrating with my teammates.”
For Mitchell, who is aiming for her fourth Paralympic berth in Paris next year, the silver medal was a confidence-builder.
“I’ve been at it since 2012, and I can’t wait to hopefully be back here in 2024,” she said. “A silver medal is a great way to prepare for Paris next year.”
After placing sixth in her event-opening 100-meter race, Kerkhoff pulled off a massive personal best in the 200-meter T13 en route to her first major international medal. The 2020 Paralympian ran 25.58, topping her previous best mark by four-tenths of a second, and held off fourth-place finisher Rayane Soares da Silva by .11 seconds to earn the bronze.
“It was kind of a blur, but I feel like I got a really good start,” Kerkhoff said. “I was just trying to gut it out at the end and get to the finish line. It was so close, I couldn’t tell I had held onto third until I saw them bring out the American flag. Once I held the flag, it was such an amazing feeling, I’m very happy.”
Kerkhoff, who is set to compete for a fifth year at the University of Northern Iowa next year, will return to the track for her 400-meter prelim on July 16.
The 2020 Paralympic silver medalist in shot put, Landry had another strong showing in today’s F41 competition to earn his first career worlds medal. Landry’s best throw of 13.48-meters won him the podium.
“A medal’s a medal, and I’m happy with that,” Landry said. “It shows a great accomplishment to end the season, and it’s my first worlds medal at that. As an athlete, you’re never really fully satisfied, and I know I left a lot out there, but this is the worlds and it’s a stepping stone for the Games, and it’s a four-year plan.”
In his world championships debut, Matthew Paintin (Littleton, Colorado) ran a 26.97-second 200-meter T35 race to place fifth. The time was more than half a second better than Paintin’s previous personal best. Teammate Marshall Zackery (Ocala, Florida) also put together a strong performance, finishing just behind Paintin in sixth with a season’s best 27.19 time.
Rounding out the day’s event finals for Team USA were Paralympic medalists Hunter Woodhall (Syracuse, Utah) and Blake Leeper (Kingsport, Tennessee), who finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in the men’s 100-meter T64 race. They will return to the track for the 400-meter T64 competition, where Woodhall is the defending Paralympic bronze medalist and Leeper is the 2012 Paralympic silver medalist.
Preliminary competition for Team USA on the fourth day of competition was highlighted by a championship record 13.10-second result in the women’s 100-meter T37 from Jaleen Roberts (Kent, Washington), who won silver in Tuesday’s long jump competition. The two-time Paralympic medalist will race in her second event final of the meet on July 13 before rounding out her competition with the 200-meter.
After a quick turnaround from yesterday’s bronze medal in the women’s 800-meter T54, Tatyana McFadden (Baltimore, Maryland) won her heat of the 1500-meter T54 to advance to her second straight final, which will be held in the morning session on July 13. McFadden is looking to build on her 21 career world championship medals.
In the men’s 400-meter T38 prelims, world champion Jaydin Blackwell (Oak Park, Michigan) won his heat and set an Americas Record in 49.61. He will be joined in the event final by Paralympic champion Nick Mayhugh (Manassas, Virginia) and newcomer Ryan Medrano (Savannah, Georgia), who placed second and third, respectively, in their heat to earn automatic qualification into the event final.
Competition at Charléty Stadium resumes July 13 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 11
Breanna Clark – womens’ 400-meter T20
Cassie Mitchell – women’s discus F53
Erin Kerkhoff – women’s 100-meter T13
Hagan Landry – men’s shot put F41