Getty Images

Athletes to watch in the World Para Track and Field Championships

Leave a comment

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

 

Dominik Paris, world champion skier, suffers season-ending injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Italian Dominik Paris, the reigning world champion in the super-G, suffered a season-ending ACL tear in a training crash Tuesday ahead of this weekend’s speed races in Kitzbuehel, Austria.

Paris crashed in super-G training not far from the hallowed World Cup venue, slipping into a curve and damaging his right knee. He also suffered a fibula microfracture, according to the Italian federation.

“My season ends here,” he said, according to the International Ski Federation (FIS). “Unfortunately while I was sliding, the inside ski caught too much and the ligament broke. There is not much to add. In the next few days we will evaluate, together with the medical staff, how to proceed.”

Paris won his third Hahnenkamm downhill title last year and was one of the favorites for Saturday’s downhill, the most prestigious annual race in the sport. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage for “Snow Pass” subscribers at 5:30 a.m. ET.

Paris, 30, won a pair of downhills in Bormio in December among five total podiums this season.

In his absence, Swiss Beat Feuz and German Thomas Dressen lead the podium contenders.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Alpine skiing season TV schedule

It’s Nathan Chen’s time at nationals for a feat 32 years in the making

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nathan Chen can join Brian Boitano in U.S. figure skating history this week, a decade after holding Boitano in the palm of his hands with a program set to music from “Kung Fu Panda.”

Chen seeks a fourth straight national title in Greensboro, N.C. He would be the seventh man to do so since World War II. Five of the previous six won Olympic titles — Dick Button, Hayes Jenkins, David Jenkins, Scott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano from 1985-88.

Boitano remembered the first time he met Chen. He and Kristi Yamaguchi were compelled to leave their seats to find the teeny, tiny wunderkind who performed that program to the 2008 DreamWorks film.

“He was taking off his skates, and he probably came up to our waist,” Boitano said. “We knew when we saw him back then that he was going to be something special. He was really quiet. He’s still very quiet.”

In an interview last week, Chen focused on the present — coming back from a two-week cold or flu bug — rather than the perspective.

“I don’t like to typically think about that,” Chen said when asked about his streak. “It’s just different [from year to year]. It’s not really necessarily easier or harder.”

It is also different from previous eras. The last five men to win four in a row did it all in one Olympic cycle, then stepped away from competition after the Winter Games. That was back when turning professional meant the end of an Olympic career.

“It was kind of the norm back then,” Hamilton said. “After that it was kind of back and forth a lot [until Chen]. The business of skating changed so skaters could stay in a lot more, a lot longer. With all the money they brought in, they were able to prevent skaters from turning professional. So that brought in a different approach to nationals.”

NATIONALS PREVIEWS: Nathan Chen | Alysa Liu | Vincent Zhou | Pairs | TV Schedule

Both Hamilton and six-time (non-consecutive) U.S. champion Todd Eldredge could think of just one name to compare Chen’s dominance in the history of U.S. men’s skating: Button, who won the first seven national titles after World War II, plus two Olympic golds.

Button earned national and world titles as a Harvard student. Chen is on a two-season win streak while majoring in statistics and data science at Yale. Button was the first skater to land a double Axel and a triple jump of any kind. Chen was the first to land six quads in one free skate.

Eldredge coaches skaters at the same rink where Chen trains when Chen visits his Southern California-based coach Rafael Arutunian. He is awed by watching Chen working out. Though Eldredge owns more national titles, he never felt the massive favorite status that accompanies Chen.

Eldredge competed in the post-Hamilton/Boitano era, when national champions began competing over multiple Olympic cycles. Eldredge ebbed and flowed from his first national title in 1990, when compulsory figures were still around, to 2002, when he defeated Timothy Goebel, then known as the Quad King.

“Physically, the demands of the sport take their toll on your body,” Eldredge said. “It’s hard to maintain that same level for that length of period of time.

“[In] 12 years [since Chen’s first national title], when he’s 29 years old, is he going to be able to continue to sustain that?”

All of the recent top U.S. men competed in multiple Olympic cycles. The last multiple national champion was Jeremy Abbott, who earned two titles each in two different Olympic cycles. Abbott finished his career in a third Olympic cycle, placing fifth at the 2015 U.S. Championships. Abbott didn’t remember that Chen made his senior nationals debut that year, finishing eighth at age 15.

“For me, winning the third and the fourth [titles] were harder because I started thinking about winning,” Abbott said. “After the second one, I was heading into a new quad and I was two-time U.S. champion. Then my focus was, oh, I’m expected to win. So that was a harder mental game rather than just focusing on making an Olympic team. The expectation now that I’ve done this twice in a row, I’m expected to win again and again and again.”

Abbott and Chen came up in the era of the points-based judging system instituted in 2004.

“Now with the way the scoring system is very different [from the old 6.0], cumulative points, if you have a bad day as a national champion, that’s it. You can’t get the points,” Eldredge said. “[In previous eras], if a certain skater was, I’ll say politically supposed to be the champion, you got a higher score, and rightfully so in most cases.”

Chen has the benefit of going into competitions knowing the kind of advantage he has in base value points from his jumping arsenal. He won last year’s national title by 58 points. This international season, he is 80 points clear of the next-highest-ranked U.S. man, Jason Brown.

“I don’t think that the try-to-push technique is necessarily my goal here,” at nationals, Chen said. “Hopefully just to maintain my body, maintain my health and try to prepare myself for the second half of the season.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Canadian ice dancers overcome wardrobe malfunction at nationals

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.