Jessica Heims and Scot Severn Place Off The Podium on Day Three of Para Track and Field

by Lisa Costantini

Jessica Heims competes at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 29, 2021 in Tokyo.


TOKYO — Jessica Heims set a new American record at her only event at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. The 22-year-old from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, threw a 34.89 in the women’s discus throw T64 in her second Paralympic Games.

Despite landing off the podium Sunday morning to finish fifth, it was her fourth throw in the finals that would give her the honor of being the top T64 thrower —finishing just below four F44 class athletes. 

When she last competed in a Games, the two classes were separate. In Rio, her 25.98 earned her eighth in her F64 class. But now, with the two combined, she would have to settle for fifth.

“I’m not mad [at that],” she said about setting a new American record in Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium.  

The morning session of day three left Heims feeling “pretty wiped.” But with her competition behind her, she said she was “ready to sit down and just cheer on my teammates for the rest of the week.”

With Tokyo being a Games that was questionable whether it would even happen, the University of Northern Iowa biology student said the experience has been humbling. 

“Finally, being in this country — trying to give my gratitude back to the hosts — it’s been great,” she said. “It’s a blessing.”  

Heims made her U.S. debut back in 2015, where she has had the support of her friends and family behind her the entire way. 

“Thank you,” she exclaimed after being asked if she had anything to say to her cheering squad back home. “If I say anything more, I’ll probably start crying. [Laughing]”

Scot Severn competes at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 29, 2021 in Tokyo.


Scot Severn also competed in Rio, earning silver in the men’s shot put F53 (8.41). Taking the field for his only event — the seated shot put — the 53-year-old was hoping to hit a mark that would earn him the only color medal he had yet to reach: gold. 

His bronze medal in London was thanks to a toss of 8.26. But during the six-round set in Tokyo, his first throw would be his best (7.36) and would result in a seventh-place finish. It was two steps up from his ninth place in Beijing, but the Card, Michigan native hoped to come out on top at his fourth Paralympic Games. 

Severn first started Para sports playing wheelchair rugby but later found his way to track and field. 

The dad to three was hit by lightning while on duty with the U.S. Army. The bolt threw him 40 feet and caused internal and external injuries, leaving him an incomplete quadriplegic.

Team USA also had two women competing in the 100-meter T34: the bronze medalist from Rio, Alexa Halko, and first-time Paralympian Eva Houston. 

Halko, 21, ran a time of 18.81 at the last Games but finished off the podium in Tokyo with a time of 19.57, landing in sixth. The Oklahoma City, OK native also has two silvers from Rio in the 400-meter and 800-meter. 

Houston, 20, crossed the line at her first Games with a new personal best time (19.82) and an eighth-place finish. 

Both athletes will race their final event the following weekend, running in the 800m T34 before the Closing Ceremony later that day.

Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit to view the medal table and results.

Lisa Costantini is a freelance writer based in Orlando. She has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications, and has contributed to since 2011.