NewsEzra FrechSam GreweBreanna Clark

Sam Grewe Grabs Gold And Breanna Clark Sets A New World Record

by Lisa Costantini

Sam Grewe celebrates after winning gold in the men’s high jump T63 final at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 31, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

TOKYO — Control the controllable. That's the advice two-time Paralympian Sam Grewe has been giving Ezra Frech. 
And tonight, he had to practice what he preached.
In the men's high jump T63, Grewe missed his first two attempts at 1.88 meters. It was a jump he needed to beat India's Mariyappan Thangavelu and win gold. If he missed, it would be a repeat of Rio, where Grewe finished behind the Indian athlete to take home silver. 
But under the pouring rain on night five in Tokyo's Olympic Stadium, all Grewe could do was control the controllable. 
"I remember very vividly at my starting line looking up at the board and seeing my name second, and I knew at that jump I was going to clear it," Grewe said, "because I was not ready to walk away with the silver again."
His pep talk worked because he not only cleared the 1.88 — earning the gold — but he hyped himself up enough to attempt to break his world record of 1.90, which he set at the last world championships. 
But with the weather not cooperating and two malfunctions with his equipment, he settled with a first-place finish. 
"There are so many things out there that you can't control — especially in high jump," Grewe said.
That's what he had to remind fellow Team USA high jumper Frech after the 16-year-old finished in fifth at his first Paralympics with a respectable height of 1.80 meters.

Ezra Frech competes in the men’s high jump T63 final at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 31, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

"He came out, and he jumped incredibly well," Grewe said. "A couple other guys jumped higher, and there's nothing you can do about that." 
"In this competition four years ago, with him jumping 1.8 — that's a gold medal. He jumped incredibly well."
Frech’s Paralympic journey began when he had the lower part of his leg removed at two years old after being born without a left knee. It was five years ago when a 12-year-old Frech watched Grewe compete in the high jump at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 and "realized this is what I want to do with my life," Frech said. 
Around that same age, his idol Grewe was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor behind his right knee. At 13, he made the decision to have his leg amputated instead of the artificial joints the doctors were proposing that would have made it difficult for him to play sports again. 
For Grewe, his time in hospitals made him realize there was an underrepresentation of people with disabilities in medicine. It's the reason why he decided to pursue a career in the medical field.
Earlier this year, the 23-year-old announced he had accepted a full-ride scholarship as a Dean's Scholar to the University of Michigan Medical School. He is already one month into school and has been preparing for the Paralympics while juggling medical school. "I've been doing probably six hours of schoolwork every day while I'm here," he said. "And honestly, I think it's been kind of therapeutic for me to keep my mind off of things."
Grewe had hoped that becoming a doctor could inspire others — the way he has with Frech. The dream came full circle long before he ever thought it possible.
An experience he described as "emotional" happened on his way to the track for today’s competition when "a local Japanese man handed me a note that he had typed up for me." He wanted Grewe to know that his 10-year-old son had been diagnosed with the exact same bone cancer that he was diagnosed with. And after seeing Grewe jumping "and just "how incredibly possible and capable I am with my amputation," his son made the same decision and is now playing soccer in middle school. 
"I'm not even a doctor yet, and it's great to see that I'm filling that role, getting people involved in adaptive sports, and seeing what's possible."

Breanna Clark poses with the display after winning the gold medal with a new world record in the women’s 400-meter T20 final at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 31, 2021 in Tokyo.

  

Setting a new world record and Paralympic gold in Tokyo tonight was Breanna Clark — the reigning gold medalist in the women's 400m T20 from Rio. Her time of 55.18 landed her ahead of Ukraine's Yuliia Shuliar and Brazil's Jardenia Felix Barbosa da Silva. 
"I feel great," she said after coming in after her podium celebration. The athlete who was diagnosed with autism at age four had advice for young athletes everywhere. "You have to remember these things: DFV (Destined For Victory) and KTF (Keep The Faith)," she said. 
Team USA also got a double podium win in the women's 100m T47 after the current world record holder, Brittni Mason, and 2016 Paralympic champion Deja Young finished in the two and three spots. 
"It means the world to me," Mason said about having her teammate share the podium with her. "You know we both motivate each other and push each other, and we've both been through a lot. So the fact that we worked our butts off to get here, to be top three is a dream."
Going into finals, Young said she was really nervous, despite running her season-best times in Tokyo. "I kind of feel like an underdog. I kind of was an underdog," she said, "But every champion goes through it. All the greats go through it, and I think this is going to be part of my story."
Taking the gold was Venezuela's Lisbeli Marina Vera Andrade with a time of 11.97. Mason still holds the world record, having run 11.89 at the last world championships. She will race her final event on Saturday when she'll compete in the 200-meter dash.
Also pulling in bronze for the women was Kym Crosby in the 100m T13 with 12.08. Her third-place finish was a repeat of Rio, where she crossed the line in 12.24 seconds.
She will race once more in Tokyo, competing in the women's 400m T13 on Thursday, hoping to land a spot in the finals on Saturday.
"I'm prepared and ready to go," she said. "I've worked harder than I ever have before, and I feel more ready than ever. So, I'm stoked. Let's bring on the 400!"

Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo-2020-Paralympic-Games 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 TeamUSA.org since 2011.
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