Photo Courtesy of Joe Kusumoto
Two new Paralympic champions were crowned at Olympic Stadium Wednesday as Team USA added five medals to its tally, including two gold, and smashed a world record.
Rachael Morrison (Farmington Hills, Michigan) won her first Paralympic gold in record-breaking fashion in the women’s discus throw F52 as she topped her own world mark set at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in October. The defending world champion was challenged by U.S. teammate Cassie Mitchell (Atlanta, Georgia) who broke Morrison’s world record on her second attempt with a mark of 12.87-meters. Three throws later, Morrison took back the record, adding 22 centimeters to polish off gold with a final mark of 13.09.
“It feels amazing,” Morrison said. “To set a world record at a Paralympic Games leaves me mostly speechless with a plastered smile across my face which will be there for quite a while.”
Mitchell, who has overcome a difficult year with a leukemia diagnosis in April, won her second medal of the Games. She’ll turnaround from the track to the pool as she’ll compete with the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Team tomorrow in the women’s 50-meter backstroke S2.
“That’s one of those things where you go with the flow,” Mitchell said. “I haven’t really thought about it too much other than it’s exciting. There’s no expectations. I’m here, I’m going to do my best and have fun. Now I have two medals in my pocket and I’m going to be thankful for the moment and thank God for the opportunity to be able to swim.”
Roderick Townsend (Stockton, California) entertained the Brazilian crowd with his sideline dancing and leaping in the men’s long jump T47. Townsend’s opening jump and Paralympic record of 7.25 carried him through the rounds until China’s Hao Wang bested him with a jump of 7.30. The 24-year-old answered aggressively, leaping 7.41 to take his first Paralympic gold.
“This event was the one I was most worried about,” Townsend said. “I knew it was going to be really stiff competition…there were a bunch of guys in the long jump that were going to be contending for that gold medal. I’m happy that I’m the one that gets to walk away with it.”
“I am so excited for high jump,” he said. “I’ve ran faster than I ever have, I’ve jumped farther than I ever have and I’m ready to jump higher than I ever have.”
U.S. Army veteran and three-time Paralympian Scot Severn (Caro, Michigan) won his second medal in this event after taking bronze in London. His opening throw of 8.27 was better than his medal-winning throw in London and his season best. Severn only got stronger throughout the competition, securing silver with his sixth attempt with a throw of 8.41 meters, just three centimeters behind the winning throw from Greece’s Che Jon Fernandes.
The youngest member of the U.S. Paralympic Track & Field Team, Alexa Halko, showed once again that she can perform on the biggest stage, capturing her second medal at her first Paralympic Games with silver in the women’s 400 T34. The 16-year-old won silver four days earlier in the 100.