On Thursday at the Tokyo Paralympics, first time Paralympian Jaleen Roberts of the United States added a second medal to her haul.
In the women’s 100m T37, Roberts ran a personal best and American record 13.16 seconds to claim silver.
China’s Wen Xiaoyan set a world record (13.00 seconds) to claim gold, while her countrywoman Jiang Fenfen finished one one-hundredth of a second behind Roberts to earn bronze.
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“I saw her and I just pushed and I knew I could do it,” Roberts told Olympic Information Service (OIS) of her tight finish with Jiang. “I pushed through the finish line, instead of stopping right at it. I knew I’d got it right at the end, just having that little bit of extra energy.”
After claiming long jump silver earlier this week, Roberts said she “didn’t really have any expectations” heading into the 100m competition.
“But after my prelim performance last night [an American record 13.41], I think my adrenaline was still going,” Roberts told OIS.
Roberts, 22, was born with cerebral palsy, a condition that impacts her muscle coordination. She grew up in Kent, Washington, where she competed alongside able-bodied athletes in both wrestling and track & field while attending Kent-Meridian High School.
When her high school coaches suggested she try para sports, Roberts was initially hesitant. “My whole life I competed against able-bodied athletes. I didn’t necessarily want to highlight or draw attention to my disability,” she told Team USA in September 2020.
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She eventually relented and made her international debut at the 2017 World Championships in London, where she won bronze in both the 100m and 200m.
“It was really cool because before I joined the Paralympic movement, I had never even been out of the country,” Roberts told Team USA. “It was crazy to feel such a sense of belonging where I never thought I would, to be on a team with athletes like myself.”
Roberts dedicated her two silver medals in Tokyo to her friend Kyndal Gilmore, who passed away in May.
“This Games was dedicated to her, and I just want to make her proud,” Roberts told Olympic Information Service after today’s race. “I know that none of my family can be in Tokyo with me, but I know that she’s here. I feel her every time I compete. I talk to her. I think that I made her proud, and that was my main goal during the Games.”
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How to watch the Tokyo Paralympics
NBC will provide over 1,200 hours of Paralympic coverage. Here are some highlights: