LYON, France - U.S. Paralympics track and field athletes combined for five medals in three events today at the 2013 International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France. Through the seventh day of competition, Team USA ranks second overall in the medal count with 40 medals (12 golds, 14 silvers and 14 bronzes), one medal behind Russia with two days of competition remaining.
In the men's 400 meter T43/44 race, Blake Leeper (Kingsport, Tenn.) ran a personal best 49.30 to secure his third silver medal of the championships, narrowly finishing behind three-time gold medalist Alan Oliveira of Brazil, who ran a championship record 48.58.
Oliveira, who has built a reputation for strong starts, was meters ahead of his competitors at the beginning of the race. But in the homestretch, Leeper was just inches away from overtaking him.
"If I just had 10 more meters, I would have had him," Leeper said.
The two also ran the 100m and 200m.
"It felt really good, really fast today," Leeper said. "A sub-50 400 meters is really good for the sport. I felt like at the end, I was a little bit stronger but I did not have enough real estate. I'm glad to take a silver medal home for my country. It gives me a little bit to work on when I get home. The next race will be faster and I hope that I'll finally have that gold medal."
David Prince (Sarasota, Fla.) won the bronze medal with a time of 50.63, well off his world record 49.87. "I'm honestly a little bit disappointed because this isn't the race that I wanted to have," he said.
Prince's greatest excitement came after the race when he learned his wife Jessie is in labor back in Florida. The couple is expecting a son.
"My coach just informed me that my wife's water broke and she's in the hospital right now," Prince said. "We were hoping that it would have lasted a little bit longer because I'm supposed to get home on Tuesday. I'm just trying to change flights right now."
Prince insists the excitement of his race was not the cause.
"She's seen better races from me," Prince said.
Tyson Gunter (Pocatello, Idaho), who is making his world championship debut this year, earned Team USA's first medal of the day with a mark of 1.90m in the men's high jump F13. Gunter finished just narrowly behind Belarus' Ihar Fartunau, who won the gold medal with a jump of 1.93.
"I was happy to get second but I could have jumped a lot higher so I'm a little disappointed with my performance," Gunter said. "I was hoping to win the gold medal. Coming into this meet, I knew the performances of my competitors and the performances I've given in the past, and I felt like I had a pretty good chance to win gold. It's an honor to win any medal for my country."
It was a familiar podium in the women's 100m T52 race as the same athletes from Thursday's 800m T52 race medaled once more today. With Canada's Michelle Stilwell on top for the second time, Cassie Mitchell (Atlanta, Ga.) won the silver medal with a time of 23.00, just edging out Kerri Morgan (St. Louis, Mo.). Morgan ran 23.36 to secure the bronze medal.
On Thursday, Morgan won the silver while Mitchell earned the bronze.
Several Team USA athletes were on the cusp of medals Friday. Most notably, Josh George (Herndon, Va.) finished just off the podium in fifth place in the men's 1500m T54 race with a time of 3:09.81. Japan's Masayuki Higuchi raced a 3:09.64 for the bronze medal.
Shaquille Vance (Houston, Miss.), who earned a silver medal in the men's 200m T42 race at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, ran 13.36 in the 100m T42 in Lyon, finishing fifth. Regas Woods (Ocala, Fla.) placed eighth with a time of 14.26.
Brian Siemann (Savoy, Ill.) ran a 15.53 to place sixth in the men's 100m T53, the same placement that Erik Hightower (Glendale, Ariz.) secured in the T54 race. Hightower clocked a time of 15.10.
Tommy Chasanoff (Bradenton, Fla.) threw a 9.37m on his third attempt in the men's shot put F36 to finish sixth.
Scott Stokes (Roswell, Ga.) finished seventh in the men's 100m T51 final with a season's best 52.37.
U.S. Army veteran Scot Severn (Caro, Mich.), who is one of 10 veterans competing for Team USA in Lyon, finished seventh in the men's javelin F52/53 with a season's best 16.91. Fellow U.S. Army veteran Robbie Gaupp (Gatesville, Texas) finished eighth in the men's triple jump T45/46/47 with a mark of 11.33m.
In the men's 400m T37, Karsten Brogan (Bossier City, La.) placed eighth with a time of 1:01.60.
Among the highlights of semifinal action, David Brown (St. Louis, Mo.) easily advanced to the finals of the men's 400m T11 race by winning his heat in 52.60 with guide Rolland Slade (Chula Vista, Calif.). It was one of five semifinal wins for Team USA with Gianfranco Iannotta (Garfield, N.J.), Raymond Martin (Jersey City, N.J.), Tatyana McFadden (Clarksville, Md.) and Shirley Reilly (Tucson, Ariz.) also crossing the line first in their respective races.
McFadden aims to win her sixth world title on the year Saturday, racing in the final of the women's 400m T54. She already has titles in the 100m, 200m, 800m, 1500m and 5000m.
Martin, who trains with McFadden at the University of Illinois, will compete for his fifth world title of 2013 when he races in the men's 400m T52.
"I have a hard time keeping up with her," said Martin, who was named the United States Olympic Committee's 2012 Paralympic SportsMan of the Year after winning four gold medals in London. "It looks like the rest of the world does too."
The marathon concludes the competition on Sunday.
The 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships, July 19-28, feature more than 1,100 athletes, including 76 Americans, from nearly 100 countries. Live streaming and on demand video is available at www.ParalympicSport.TV while live results are available at www.paralympic.org/events/lyon2013.
For more information, please contact Jamie Blanchard, U.S. Paralympics, at 719-237-2179 or firstname.lastname@example.org.