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Athletes to watch in the World Para Track and Field Championships

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World championships and Paralympic berths will be at stake Nov. 7-15 at the World Para Track and Field Championships in Dubai.

The top four athletes in each event will win Paralympic qualification berths for their countries, with the exception that no athlete may earn a spot in more than one event.

Athletes are split into multiple classifications based on the type and level of impairment, and some disciplines offer many medal events. The men’s 100 meters will have 17 classifications — three for visual impairment (T11-T13), six for athletes with cerebral palsy or other coordination impairments (T33-T38), one for those with upper-limb impairment (T47), four for wheelchair athletes (T51-T54), two for runners with prosthetic legs (T63-T64), and one for the new world championship discipline of RaceRunning, in which athletes compete in three-wheeled devices similar to walkers. Other events include classifications for intellectual impairment (T20) or short stature (T40-T41).

Field event athletes are given “F” classifications rather than “T.”

One of the best-known wheelchair athletes in the world, Tatyana McFadden, will not be competing in Dubai, having just raced in the New York City Marathon. She has already qualified for the 2020 Paralympics in the marathon.

The athletes competing include the first autistic runner to break the four-minute mile, the daughter of a 1976 Olympic silver medalist, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering who holds multiple world records, and an athlete who posed in ESPN’s Body Issue.

Among the athletes to watch in Dubai:

VISUAL

David Brown (U.S., T11, 100 meters): 2016 Paralympic gold medalist and two-time defending world champion at 100. Runs with guide Jerome Avery. Also took silver in 2017 at 200, which won’t be contested this year. Holds world records at 100 (10.92) and 200 (22.41). Lost vision throughout his childhood due to Kawasaki disease and was blind by age 13.

Isaac Jean-Paul (U.S., T13, high jump): Set a still-standing high jump world record (2.17 meters) in the 2017 championships and took bronze in the long jump. Won the 2015 NCAA Division II national championship while competing at Lewis University. Placed 16th in the USA Track and Field Championships.

INTELLECTUAL

Mikey Brannigan (U.S., T20, 1,500): 2016 Paralympic gold medalist and two-time defending world champion at 1,500. Also won 800 and took silver in the 5,000 in 2017, but those two events will not be on the 2019 program. The first T20 athlete to break the four-minute mark in the mile. Holds the T20 world record at 1,500 (3:45.50) and 5,000 (14:09.51). Diagnosed with autism at an early age and was non-verbal until age 4.

Breanna Clark (U.S., T20, 400): 2016 Paralympic gold medalist and 2017 world champion. Set the 400 world record in the 2017 championships and lowered it to 55.99 seconds in 2018. Her mother, Rosalyn Clark, took silver in the 1976 Olympics in the 4×400 relay.

COORDINATION

Walid Ktila (Tunisia, T34, sprint/middle distance): Three-time defending four-event champion (100, 200, 400, 800), though this year’s championships will not include the 200. Also swept the 100 and 200 in the 2012 Paralympics and took another gold in the 100 and silver in the 800 in 2016. World record holder in the 100, 200 and 400.

Jaleen Roberts (U.S., T37, 100/200/long jump): Took three medals (long jump silver, 100 and 200 bronze) in 2017. Won all three of her events and a relay gold medal in the 2019 Parapan American Games.

UPPER BODY

Roderick Townsend (U.S., T46, 100/jumps): 2016 Paralympic gold medalist in high jump and long jump. Two-time defending world champion and world record holder in high jump.

Tobi Fawehinmi (U.S., T47, long jump): Won gold in the 2017 triple jump, which won’t be contested this year. Also took bronze in the long jump. Youngest man on the 2012 Paralympic team. Has underdeveloped left arm due to shoulder dystocia.

Deja Young (U.S., T47, 100/200): 2016 Paralympic gold medalist in 100 and 200. Defending world champion in both sprint events. Also took gold in the 100 and silver in the 200 in 2015. Ran track at Wichita State. Has limited mobility in right shoulder due to brachial plexus.

WHEELCHAIR

Cassie Mitchell (U.S., F52, discus/club throw): Set the discus world record (13.23 meters) in the 2017 championships, a mark that still stands as the record, and took silver in the shot put. Earned a college track scholarship upon graduating from high school in 1999 but then developed a neurological condition that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Made her Paralympic debut in 2012, then returned in 2016 to earn silver in the discus and bronze in the club throw. Also competed in swimming in 2016 and won two world championships in cycling in 2011. Holds F51 world record in discus and T52 records at every distance from 100 to 1,500. Assistant professor of biomedical engineering at a joint program between Georgia Tech and Emory.

Brent Lakatos (Canada, T53, sprint/middle distance): Swept the 100 through 800 in 2017 and won the 100 in the 2016 Paralympics. Like Ktila in the T34, he won’t have the opportunity to defend his 200 title, but he’s entered in the 100, 400 and 800 at T53 and will compete at T54 in the 1,500 and 5,000. Married to British Para athlete Stefanie Reid, who has been on reality TV in her home country. World record holder at every distance from 100 to 1,500.

Hannah McFadden (U.S., T54, 100/800): Younger sister of seven-time Paralympic gold medalist Tatyana McFadden. Youngest member of the 2012 Paralympics at age 16. Bronze medalist in the 100 and 200 in each of the last two world championships.

Daniel Romanchuk (U.S., T54, 800 and up): World champion in the marathon and already qualified for Tokyo in that event. In 2018, won Chicago Marathon and became first American man to win the New York City Marathon, also tying the record for youngest winner (20). In 2019, became the youngest winner (still 20) and first American man to win Boston Marathon since 1993. Also won 2019 London Marathon to clinch world title and defended title in Chicago, then won again in New York. World record holder in 800 and 5,000.

Susannah Scaroni (U.S., T54, 400 and up): Already qualified for Tokyo in the marathon, clinching her third Paralympic appearance in that event.

PROSTHETIC

Scout Bassett (U.S., T63, 100/long jump): 2016 Paralympian posed in ESPN’s Body Issue, where she shared her story of being adopted from a Chinese orphanage at age 7. Holds U.S. record in T42 100 and took bronze in both of her events in 2017.

Markus Rehm (Germany, T64, long jump): Was denied the opportunity to compete in the 2016 Olympics because organizers said he failed to prove that his prosthesis offered no advantage. Has won every Paralympic or world championship long jump competition since 2011. Also took gold in men’s 4×100 relay in 2016. World record holder with a leap of 8.48 meters, which would rank third on the list of 2019 performances among able-bodied jumpers.

The Olympic Channel will have coverage of the World Para Track and Field Championships starting at 10 a.m. ET Thursday and then every day of the championships (ending Nov. 15) at 9 a.m. ET.

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Bryan brothers to retire at 2020 U.S. Open, don’t plan on Olympics

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Bob and Mike Bryan said they will retire after the 2020 U.S. Open, ending a tennis career that’s included a men’s record 16 Grand Slam doubles titles together.

They also don’t plan to play at the Tokyo Olympics, their manager later said in an email.

The twins are 41 years old, having spent more than half their lives as professionals.

“A part of us, feels like, is dying,” Bob Bryan said on Tennis Channel. “But we’re really clear about this decision. It’s going to be great to have a finish line.”

Mike said that in 2020 they will play all the events they “really love,” including all four Grand Slams and American tournaments. The Olympics weren’t mentioned.

Rather, they will see how they’re feeling midway through the year, they said on the Tennis.com podcast.

The Bryans earned doubles gold at the 2012 London Games but withdrew from the Rio Olympics six days before the Opening Ceremony. They cited making their family’s health a “top priority” and later said Zika virus concerns were “a very small part of” the decision.

The Bryans own 118 titles overall but nearly ended their partnership after Bob underwent hip surgery a year ago. He rejoined Mike this season, reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals and winning two ATP doubles titles.

MORE: Simona Halep, Nadia Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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A century later, Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori can bring Japan Olympic tennis to forefront

Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori
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When Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori take the courts at the Tokyo Olympics, perhaps together, they will be doing so 100 years after tennis players won Japan’s first Olympic medals in any sport.

Tennis is not usually one of the handful of marquee competitions at the Games, in part because it is one of the sports whose biggest event is not the Games themselves.

“We have been playing for these Grand Slams, and I think that’s why we train for,” Nishikori said at the U.S. Open in August, when asked to compare the meaning of winning one of tennis’ four annual majors to earning a medal at a home Olympics. “That’s going to be the biggest goal to winning Grand Slams.”

Yet the term “Grand Slam” had not been conceived — for golf or tennis — at the time of the 1920 Antwerp Games. There, Ichiya Kumagae earned silvers in singles and doubles with Seiichiro Kashio to become the first Japanese Olympic medalists.

Kumagae was Japan’s first notable international tennis player, reaching the 1918 U.S. Open semifinals (then called the U.S. National Championships) and beating Bill Tilden in the final of the 1919 Great Lakes Championships.

Kumagae, born in 1890, had not seen a tennis racket or ball until his 20s, according to Roger W. Ohnsorg‘s “The First Forty Years of American Tennis.”

“He came here to America in 1916, the possessor of a wonderful forehand drive and nothing else,” Tilden wrote in “The Art of Lawn Tennis.” Kumagae was listed by Ohnsorg as 5 feet, 3 inches, 134 pounds and requiring glasses at all times. Later in 1922, Kumagae’s engagement to the daughter of a wealthy politician was published as a news brief in The New York Times.

Nearly a century later, Nishikori and Osaka brought more Japanese tennis breakthroughs. Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final at the 2014 U.S. Open. Last year, Osaka became the first Japanese singles player to win a Grand Slam, also at the U.S. Open.

This past June, Japan’s annual Central Research sports survey (1,227 people, age 20+) put Nishikori and Osaka as its respondents’ fourth- and sixth-favorite athletes, past or present. Baseball players Ichiro (retired), Shohei Ohtani and Shigeo Nagashima (long retired) and figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu rounded out the top five.

Osaka’s U.S. Open title was voted the top sports moment of Emperor Akihito’s reign from 1989 to April 30, beating Ichiro’s retirement and Hanyu’s repeat Olympic crown in PyeongChang. Perhaps there was some recency bias.

Akatsuki Uchida, a tennis journalist from Japan, said that Nishikori’s U.S. Open final was a bigger moment for Japanese tennis than Osaka’s win over Serena Williams, though.

“Tennis at that time [in 2014] was not broadcast in Japan,” she said at the U.S. Open. “Media coverage of tennis was decreasing before Kei made that final. For most of Japanese, not tennis fans, but ordinary people, it came from out of nowhere. … He became like an overnight sensation. Since then, the situation of tennis in Japan changed dramatically.

“If [Osaka] wins the title before Kei won the title here, it could have been way bigger, but since Kei made the final before Naomi, it made Naomi’s achievement, still a big deal, less surprising.”

Another key difference: Nishikori spent the majority of his childhood in Japan, while Osaka’s family, with a Haitian father and Japanese mother, moved to the U.S. when she was 3 years old.

Osaka has dual citizenship, but Japanese law requires one to be chosen over the other by the 22nd birthday. Osaka turned 22 last month, before which she confirmed what most had assumed, that she picked Japan.

Uchida was unsure whether Osaka and Nishikori could propel tennis at the Tokyo Games into a greater spotlight among 33 total sports.

“But if Kei and Naomi played mixed doubles, that would be a big thing,” she said.

Nishikori has already reportedly said he plans to enter singles and doubles in Tokyo, the latter with Ben McLachlan, Japan’s top doubles player. McLachlan was born in New Zealand and in 2017 switched representation to Japan, his mother’s birth nation.

But Nishikori did not rule out adding mixed doubles.

“Very hot, very humid, playing singles and two doubles, I don’t know if I can,” he said before the U.S. Open. “I haven’t think too much yet, honestly. I don’t know. I will talk to Naomi later.”

Nishikori smiled as he brought up Osaka’s name at the end of his answer to a question that didn’t mention her. Later in the tournament, Osaka was told Nishikori’s thoughts.

“I would definitely play with him,” said Osaka, who in 2016 was the highest-ranked eligible player not to make the Rio Olympic field. “I just — I would actually need to practice doubles for the first time in my life. Because you cannot play mixed doubles with Kei Nishikori and lose in the first round of the Olympics in Tokyo. That would be the biggest — like, I would cry. I would actually cry for losing a doubles match. Yeah, definitely I think that that would be so, like, historic in a way. And I would love to do it, but I need to practice my doubles.”

MORE: Simona Halep, Nadia Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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