Townsend’s high jump four-peat comes in world record fashion as Americans earn seven medals on third day of world championships
by Kristen Gowdy
PARIS, FRANCE – Four-time Paralympic medalist Roderick Townsend (Stockton, California) won his fourth consecutive men’s high jump T47 title and set a new world record to lead Team USA’s seven-medal haul on the third day of competition at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships at Charléty Stadium in Paris, France.
Podium performances from Jaleen Roberts (Kent, Washington), Brittni Mason (Cleveland, Ohio), Tatyana McFadden (Baltimore, Maryland), Dallas Wise (Columbia, South Carolina), Samantha Heyison (Adamstown, Maryland) and Brian Siemann (Champaign, Illinois) rounded out a massive third day for the Americans in Para track and field competition.
Townsend’s world record-setting mark of 2.16 meters came after he had already secured his gold medal, beating out India’s Nishad Kumar after Kumar failed at his attempt at 2.13.
With his title defended four times over, Townsend elected to try for the 2.16 mark and cleared it on his third try. The jump broke the 2.15 world record he set at the Mt. Sac Relays in April.
He has now won every high jump title at every Paralympic Games and world championships since 2015.
“I’m extremely happy to be able to come out here and have a lot of pressure on me and to make something happen,” he said. “We have a lot of young guys in this competition, and I just turned 31 this year, so I’m definitely the dad out there, but I’m just extremely happy to be able to do what I do at a high level. I just really want to continue to keep this streak alive.”
The victory was made even more special by the fact that his wife – Olympic high jumper Tynita Butts – was cheering from the stands, and the couple is expecting their first child in November. It was the first time Butts had been able to watch Townsend compete at this level.
“It’s just been amazing to have her here, it’s given me so much motivation and so much energy,” he said. “I’m just extremely happy to be able to share this moment with them.”
Joining Townsend on the podium is teammate Wise, who earned his first worlds medal, a bronze, with a 2.04-meter jump. The University of Southern California varsity track athlete is making his worlds debut after medaling in high jump at his first Paralympics in Tokyo.
Townsend and Wise will return for the men’s long jump T47 on July 13.
A three-time Paralympic medalist, Mason returned to the track and secured silver in the women’s 100-meter T47 race. Her time of 12.24 was the second-fastest result of her season, and was just .07 off the gold medal pace set by Kiara Rodriguez of Ecuador.
Mason will now turn her attention to her other individual event, the 200-meter, which will be contested on the final day of competition in Paris. Mason is the defending Paralympic silver medalist in both the 100-meter and 200-meter, and will be seeking her first career world championships medal in the 200-meter.
“I wanted to run a little bit faster, but I can’t let that deter my focus for the 200,” Mason said. “I’m excited to have gotten the 100 done and to have gotten silver. It’s such a humbling experience to come out here [to her second world championships], to be completely healthy. I’m really blessed to have this opportunity again because it’s not always promised.”
Mason said competing in Paris just a year before she will potentially return for the Paralympic Games has served as motivation.
“I want that gold medal,” she said. “I’m going to work my butt off and put up a good fight.”
Roberts nabbed Team USA’s second silver medal of the day in the women’s long jump T37. The 2020 Paralympic silver medalist in long jump, Roberts earned her second consecutive worlds silver medal in the event with a best jump of 5.00 meters.
It was Roberts’ furthest mark in five years. The two-time Paralympic medalist is also set to compete in the 100-meter and 200-meter races.
“I went into it super, super confident,” she said. “I’m proud of myself because I’m finally back in the five-meter club. That felt really nice. My goal was to come out and get gold, so I’m not quite where I want to be, but I do thank God for where He has me right now, and I’m just going to get back to the drawing board.”
The 20-time Paralympic medalist McFadden wrote another chapter in her historic career with bronze in the women’s 800-meter T54.
It is the 21st career world championships medal for McFadden, who is chasing down the Para track and field records for both overall Paralympic medals and world championships medals.
McFadden’s time of 1:46.51 was just .05 seconds behind the silver medal pace set by Zhaoqian Zhou of China. Switzerland’s Manuela Schaer took home the gold.
“To see younger athletes, to see Manuela pushing boundaries, it’s making me say ‘What do I need to do in my training to see how I can get even more competitive?’” McFadden said. “It’s keeping me on my toes and it’s making me see what I need to do. It’s amazing that I’m still here being able to be consistent after the blood clotting disorder I experienced in 2016. It’s been an unbelievable journey.”
After her race, McFadden spoke to the changes she’s seen in Para sport as she’s progressed through her career.
“Next year will be my 20th year competing in Paralympic sport,” she said. “We have the fans out here and it’s been unbelievable. It’s incredible to see that people want to come out here and watch us, this is probably the biggest crowd we’ve had at a world championships.”
McFadden was joined in the 800-meter final by Paralympian Hannah Dederick (HOMETOWN), who completed her world championships debut in seventh place. Both McFadden and Dederick will return to competition for the 100-meter and 400-meter races, while McFadden is also set for the 1500-meter.
Competing in his sixth career world championships, Siemann put together a special performance in the men’s 400-meter T53 race to win his first career world championships medal. Coming into the final straightaway, Siemann battled alongside competitor Pichet Krungget and eventually edged the Thai athlete by .05 seconds at the finish line.
The three-time Paralympian’s previous best finish at a world championships or Paralympic Games is fourth, which he has achieved multiple times.
“It’s absolutely incredible and so worth the wait,” Siemann said. “I ran a really fast qualifier, so I went in feeling really good and when you’re in the final, anything can happen. [When I crossed the finish line] I just lit up and smiled. It’s something I’ve been working toward for a really long time, so just to be able to get up on the podium is really exciting.”
At just 17 years old and a recent high school graduate, Heyison showed poise beyond her years in her worlds debut. Her bronze in the women’s discus F64 – the first throwing medal of the competition for Team USA – was won with a best mark of 37.84 meters.
For Heyison, who is set to compete at Wake Forest University at the NCAA Division I level next year, the medal came as a result of locking in her mindset prior to the competition. During her high school season, she said, she would lose focus if she had a bad throw early.
Today though, competing on the biggest stage of her career, her best throw came on her sixth and final turn.
“I feel really ecstatic about my performance,” she said. “Something I’ve been struggling with is I’d get really down on myself if I didn’t like my throw, and I’m just excited I was able to break that cycle and build on my throws. I just had to get rid of all the negative thoughts. I knew this is my last meet of the season and the biggest stage I’ve ever competed on, so I knew if I had that mentality, I would get to where I wanted to be.”
Heyison will compete in her second and final event in Paris, the women’s shot put F64, on July 15.
In prelim competition, Paralympic champion Breanna Clark (Los Angeles, California) cruised to victory in her heat of the women’s 400-meter T20, the event in which she is two-time defending world and Paralympic champion. Her time of 55.52 set a new championship record – beating out the record she set at the 2017 world championships by nearly a second – and she will return to the track for the final tomorrow morning.
After a sixth-place finish in yesterday’s women’s 100-meter T13 race, Erin Kerkhoff (Coralville, Iowa) responded by qualifying for her second straight event final in Paris, placing second in her women’s 200-meter T13 heat. She will compete in the final on July 12.
In Team USA’s final prelim of the day, Paralympic medalists Hunter Woodhall (Syracuse, Utah) and Blake Leeper (Kingsport, Tennessee) qualified for the final of the men’s 100-meter T64. Each athlete finished fourth in his respective heat of qualifications, with Woodhall clocking in at 11.36. Leeper, who is racing in his first major competition since the 2013 world championships, ran a personal-best 11.38 to qualify. Teammate Derek Loccident (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) just missed the final in the first event of his world championships debut, but will return for the long jump T64.
Competition at Charléty Stadium resumes July 12 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
Roderick Townsend – men’s high jump T47
Brittni Mason – women’s 100-meter T47
Jaleen Roberts – women’s long jump T37
Samantha Heyison – women’s discus F64
Tatyana McFadden – women’s 800-meter T54
Brian Siemann – men’s 400-meter T53
Dallas Wise – men’s high jump T47