Record-setting performance carries Oakville racer into finals at para worlds

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Published July 17, 2023 at 5:09 pm

Oakville wheelchair racer Austin Smeenk is on to the men’s T34 800-metre final at the Para athletics world championships after beating his previous record time set at the Americas back in May. CANADIAN PARALYMPIC PHOTO

Sunday (July 16) was a record-setting day for Oakville wheelchair racer Austin Smeenk at the World Para Athletics Championships in Paris, France.

The 26-year-old, who has already won two medals at worlds, is on to the men’s T34 800-metre final after beating his previous record time set at the Americas back in May.

Smeenk finished second in his heat with a time of one minute 38.10 seconds, cutting 1.33 seconds off his best time.

The Canadian’s time was the second fastest among the eight qualifiers. Thailand’s Chaiwat Rattana a world championship record with a time of 1:37.88.

The two-time Paralympian has already won a silver in the men’s T34 100m and a bronze in the T34 400m.

Smeenk appeared to have his first gold medal at worlds in the final event of the penultimate day, but he and his Canadian teammates were disqualified from the 4x100m universal relay podium.

The Oakville athlete, along with relay teammates Bianca Borgella, Zachary Gingras and Marissa Papaconstantinou, put a time of 47.24 to finish first, but a review of the race determined that Smeenk had started the last leg before Gingras could complete the exchange.

“I’m not sure if I went early, or if I had a bigger, more powerful start than we anticipated,” Smeenk told Athletics Canada. “Either way, we didn’t manage to make the exchange in the final handoff and it’s not a very proud moment.”

With Canada disqualified, Japan took home gold, Brazil the silver and Great Britain a bronze.

Smeenk and the Canadian relay team advanced to the final earlier in the day in national record time of 48.15.

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