Dynamic discus duo Blair, Campbell put on a show for Team USA’s first 1-2 finish in Paris
by Kristen Gowdy
PARIS, FRANCE – Paralympic champion David Blair (Eagle Mountain, Utah) found redemption and the top of the podium in the men’s discus F64 to headline a five-medal night for Team USA at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships.
Four-time Paralympic champion Jeremy Campbell (Perryton, Texas) secured the silver in the first 1-2 finish of the meet for the Americans. Adding to the medal haul for the day was Tatyana McFadden (Baltimore, Maryland), Samantha Heyison (Adamstown, Maryland) and Brian Siemann (Champaign, Illinois).
Team USA’s medal total now sits at 31 with two days remaining in competition.
For the fourth consecutive world championships dating back to 2015, Blair and Campbell occupied the top two spots on the discus F64 podium. Their result today was decided by .03 meters, the second day in a row in which Team USA athletes were within centimeters of each other after last night’s men’s long jump T64.
Campbell, who is the defending Paralympic champion in the event, has captured the last three world titles, but tonight Blair’s best throw of 60.36 meters gave the 2016 Paralympic champion his first career worlds title. After an uncharacteristic fourth-place finish at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 that was largely decided by slippery conditions due to rain, Blair’s dramatic win was a long-awaited return to the podium.
“It could’ve gone either way,” he said. “Jeremy is a great competitor and an excellent champion. We’re always really close to each other, and today when he threw that last one, neither of us knew who won until they told us. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a world title decided by less than four or five centimeters.”
Blair, who specializes in discus and wraps his 2023 worlds slate with the event, credited his family for their support as he pursues his athletic goals.
“It’s a big sacrifice for me to be here and compete with leaving the family,” he said. “It’s a big sacrifice for them, they let me do this very selfish thing, but I love them to death for it. It was a really emotional time for me out there, just a remarkable thing.”
Campbell, meanwhile, adds to his six career worlds medals. His best throw of 60.33 meters beat out bronze medalist Dan Greaves of Great Britain by more than two meters.
“I’m excited, it’s a little bit bittersweet, but it was a good competition today and you can’t ask for more than that,” he said.
After each faulting on their first attempts, the American duo traded the lead throughout the rest of the competition. Blair took over first place with a 58.73-meter throw on his third try, but Campbell took it back on his fourth with a 59.05. Blair sealed the win on his fifth and best attempt, and Campbell’s sixth and final throw fell just short of his teammate’s.
“It’s never boring with us, it’s fun and always exciting,” Campbell said. “We all got off to really slow starts today, but when David hit that 58-meter mark, I had sort of a paradigm shift in the ring, so having someone there to pull it out of you and vice versa is really helpful. We’re really the only ones doing that for each other.”
Completing a hat trick of wheelchair racing medals was McFadden, who took silver in the women’s 400-meter T54 competition just a day after earning bronze in the 100-meter. After a ninth-place finish in the 1500-meter, McFadden has responded with two consecutive medals in sprint events to close out her slate of individual races.
McFadden now has 23 career worlds medals and will seek her 24th as a member of Team USA’s 4x100 universal relay team that will compete tomorrow and also includes Noah Malone, Jaleen Roberts and Hunter Woodhall.
Competing in Paris just a year out from what would be her seventh Paralympic Games, McFadden said she’s been encouraged by the fan turnout and atmosphere at the event.
“It’s been four years since we’ve had a world championships, and I’m so excited to be back competing,” she said. “This has been a really good test to try to get ready for next year. Coming off a COVID Games, I think the fans are really excited, we’ve seen big crowds this week. Normally a world championships is so quiet. I love the crowd, I think it brings so much energy.”
Earning her second medal of the meet and second overall worlds medal was the 17-year-old Heyison, who is competing in her first world championships. Heyison’s bronze in today’s women’s shot put F64 came on the heels of a bronze earlier in the week in her discus event.
The Wake Forest University commit’s best throw of 10.83 meters secured her podium position.
“I’m very excited,” Heyison said. “For the most part, I got better each throw, and I feel like I’m becoming the athlete that I used to be again. I listen to ‘Eye of the Tiger’ before every throw, and I feel like I’m starting to get that back. Lifting the flag has definitely been the coolest thing so far, it’s been an honor and I’m excited for more.”
After working 12 years for his first worlds medal, which came earlier in the week in the men’s 400-meter T53, Siemann earned his second in less than a week in the 800-meter T53 final tonight.
While battling nerves, Siemann put together a season’s best 1:36.65 in his signature event and secured his second bronze medal of the week by more than a second.
“I’m so excited to end my meet with another medal,” he said. “This is the race that I train for, and I was really nervous before it, so coming out with a medal makes it all worth it. My mindset was to focus on my strengths, and I tried not to let the nerves get to me. It took me 12 years to get my first medal, so I think this just proves that the work I’ve been putting in is just paying off.”
In other Team USA action on day seven of competition, Paralympian Hannah Dederick (Mead, Washington) placed eighth in the women’s 400-meter T54 final, but later received a disqualification for a lane violation. Americans Marshall Zackery (Ocala, Florida) and Matthew Paintin (Littleton, Colorado) each earned spots in tomorrow’s men’s 100-meter T35 final after placing third and fourth, respectively, in their preliminary heats.
Competition at Charléty Stadium resumes for its penultimate day on July 16 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 14
David Blair – men’s discus F64
Jeremy Campbell – men’s discus F64
Tatyana McFadden – women’s 400-meter T54
Samantha Heyison – women’s shot put F64
Brian Siemann – men’s 800-meter T53