Jean-Paul, Mason golden on final day of 2023 world championships
by Kristen Gowdy
PARIS, FRANCE – Team USA athletes secured five more medals as the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships wrapped Monday evening. Led by world titles from Isaac Jean-Paul (Evanston, Illinois) and Brittni Mason (Cleveland, Ohio), Team USA took home two golds, two silvers and a bronze, bringing the Americans’ medal total to 39 over the nine-day competition at Charléty Stadium in Paris, France.
Completing the event with 10 gold, 14 silver and 15 bronze medals, Team USA ranked third in overall medal count among the more than 100 nations competing. Paralympians Michael Brannigan (Northport, New York), Blake Leeper (Kingsport, Tennessee) and Jaleen Roberts (Kent, Washington) each added to Team USA’s medal haul on the final day of competition.
After coming up just short of the world title in the 100-meter T47 race and earning silver, Mason said she wanted gold in the 200-meter, which would be a first for her career.
The three-time Paralympic medalist responded by topping the field with a time of 25.36, nearly .2 seconds ahead of the rest of the competition.
The 2019 world champion in the 100-meter and the defending Paralympic silver medalist in both the 100-meter and 200-meter, Mason had never won a title in the 200-meter – which had previously been a secondary event for her – at a major event.
“This is my first time getting the gold in a 200, and my mindset was to run with passion,” Mason said. “I knew that I had to get out and get a really get a good start and just keep running – that tactic and that mindset were key for me today. It makes me more excited for the Games next year as I try to get faster in both the 100 and the 200. To have this title means everything.”
Jean-Paul’s gold came as a result of an event-opening 7.06-meter jump, which sealed his title early. Ryota Fukunaga of Japan nearly caught Jean-Paul on his fifth attempt with a 7.03-meter jump that earned him the silver, but the American Paralympic bronze medalist held the lead and earned the fourth worlds medal of his career.
It is also Jean-Paul’s first world title in the long jump – he was the 2017 men’s high jump T13 world champion before the event was dropped from the competition program. He said he was competing for his one-year-old daughter, who was watching back home.
“I know she was screaming at the camera, she loves watching me compete,” he said. “Now that I’m a dad, my focus is different. I’m not as worried about the small things anymore. I compete for her.”
Teammate Tyson Gunter (McCammon, Idaho), who has also made the switch to long jump after high jump T13 was dropped, placed seventh in his long jump worlds debut. Gunter is a two-time worlds silver medalist in high jump.
In a podium performance 10 years in the making, Leeper ran a massive personal best in the men’s 400-meter T62 final to finish in 47.84 for his first worlds medal since 2013. His silver medal is the sixth of his career as the two-time Paralympic medalist looks to qualify for his second Paralympic Games.
“It’s been 10 years of training and being in and out of the sport, and I fought so hard to make this team,” Leeper said. “This is one of the hardest teams to make and to not only make the team and to medal after 10 years, it’s so fun. I’ve got more medals to win and I’ve got fuel in the tank.”
Teammate and three-time Paralympic medalist Hunter Woodhall (Syracuse, Utah), one of the medal favorites in the 400-meter T62, was forced to pull out of the race due to an equipment malfunction.
“He has been training super, super hard,” Leeper said. “Watch out for him next year. He’s going to bounce back even stronger, and next year we’re going to get that U.S. sweep.”
The Paralympic champion Brannigan returned to the worlds stage for his signature 1500-meter T20 event and raced to the silver medal. His time of 3:53.30 was a season’s best and he finished behind only Great Britain’s Ben Sandilands, who set a championship record.
It was Brannigan’s sixth career world championships medal.
“I’m feeling very happy with the race and very excited,” he said. “I got out well and ran my own race. It’s been a good experience here.”
Roberts rounded out a hat trick of medals at the meet with bronze in the women’s 200-meter T37. The two-time Paralympic medalist has had a stellar meet, setting personal bests in both the 100-meter and 200-meter races, and hitting the five-meter mark in the long jump for the first time in five years.
Her bronze medal came with a 27.00-second 200-meter. The personal best was the second she had set on the day after running a then-championship record 27.11-second preliminary heat, which was later broken in the final. Roberts’ 2023 world championships showing was her most successful to date, and she now has eight career worlds medals.
In his first competition at his first world championships, Leo Merle (Folsom, California) ran a personal best to finish fourth in the men’s 1500-meter T38. His time of 4:06.13 was just over a second off the podium.
A Paralympic silver medalist in shot put, Hagan Landry (Delcambre, Louisiana) competed in his first javelin event in six years, finishing sixth and setting an Americas record with a 38.31-meter throw in the men’s F41 event. Landry completes his worlds debut with his first medal – bronze in shot put.
Days after winning his first world title in the men’s high jump T63, Ezra Frech (Los Angeles, California) finished his world championships with a sixth-place finish in the 100-meter T63, running a personal-best 12.45 seconds.
Already a silver medalist in Paris, Paralympian Tanner Wright (Abilene, Texas) rounded out his competition slate in Paris with a fifth-place result in his preliminary heat of the men’s 100-meter T47. Wright’s silver medal in the 400-meter T47 earlier in the week was his first career international medal.
Final results and other competition information from the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships can be found here. The next major international competition for Team USA will be the 2023 Parapan American Games in November in Santiago, Chile.
For updates and announcements as the team builds toward the Paralympic Games Paris 2024, 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 17
Isaac Jean-Paul – men’s long jump T13
Brittni Mason – women’s 200-meter T47
Michael Brannigan – men’s 1500-meter T20
Blake Leeper – men’s 400-meter T62
Jaleen Roberts – women’s 200-meter T37