David Blair celebrates after competing in the men's discus F64 finals at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships on Nov. 14, 2019 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
It seems like it’s just destiny at this point for Paralympic discus gold medalists Jeremy Campbell and David Blair to eternally finish 1-2 at the world championships.
Not even an injury Blair picked up Tuesday could keep him from breaking up the gold and silver partnership for the third world championships in a row, and in fact he made a season’s best throw of 59.87 meters at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. But that was not enough to catch Campbell at 61.04 meters.
“It’s exciting,” Campbell said afterward. “This year’s been really crazy, lots of injuries and just setbacks, and so I really kind of came into this one not really knowing what to expect.”
Blair wasn’t sure that he would even be able to compete on Thursday, such was the seriousness of his injury, sustained during weight training earlier in the week.
“I need to go home and get an MRI,” Blair said. “They told me I bulged a disc or tore a tendon in my back. A lot of the staff helped me nonstop, I had someone by my side whenever I was getting therapy and even my coach back home, he’s a doctor, and I called him and he told me what to do and they’re all, ‘OK, we’ll do what he says too.’ We did everything we could think of.”
Injury aside, Blair was still hoping to finally come out on top in his third try at worlds of seeking to best Campbell after taking silver to him in both 2015 and 2017. Despite the friendship the teammates have, the competitive spirit keeps both of them fighting for the top spot.
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“It’s not good because one of these years I want to be first! This was my year to do it,” Blair joked. “You know, it’s an honor to go 1-2. No matter what, for the country, I love it, and I love that we’ve done it, and Jeremy is a great friend, he and I get along great, it’s very nice to have a teammate in there competing, but to have the teammate go 1-2 with me, every year, it’s such a nice thing to do. I love doing it.”
Competition was really just a duel between Campbell and Blair, whose second-place throw was more than five meters ahead of third-place Ivan Katanusic of Croatia. All athletes were battling through dusty and dry conditions.
“With the sand here and it’s so dry, some of those rings get really slick,” Campbell said. “So we were all just kind of slipping around trying to get a wet towel and dry everything off.”
Those conditions are unlikely to be repeated at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, but it was nonetheless a little taste of what competition there would be like. Campbell is a three-time Paralympian and three-time gold medalist – in discus in 2008 and 2012, and pentathlon in 2008 – while Blair made his Paralympic debut in 2016 and bested Campbell there for the gold medal. They are each seeking to make it back there, and meets like the world championships provide valuable preparation.
“It’s nice to have this big of a meet and kind of feel the tension,” Campbell said, “because it kind of just portrays and mimics what we’re going to feel a little bit at Tokyo so it just reminds you and gets you excited and makes you want to train harder.”
Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.