CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa track and field athlete Jessica Heims capped off a world record-breaking summer last week in Lima, Peru, at the 2019 Parapan America Games by breaking her own world record in the discus.
Her throw of 34.4 meters (112 feet, 10 inches) earned a world record and gold medal.
“It was really exciting, this was my first Parapan Games,” said Heims, who previously set the record in June at the Para Athletics Grand Prix in Grosseto, Italy, with a throw of 34.15. “I was really excited to make this team. Most of my competition is in the eastern hemisphere of the world, so it was nice to get in the western hemisphere and compete against people I don’t normally compete with at meets.”
Despite breaking her own world record and beating her closest competition in Peru by 4.5 meters, the former Cedar Rapids Prairie prep wasn’t satisfied with her throws.
“I was happy that I at least had one good overall performance. But I came away a little disappointed in my technique,” Heims said. “That’s just made me excited to know that I can throw a good throw with poor technique, which means I can throw even better once I get back to training.”
While Heims is still searching for more out of her discus throws, she had a first in Peru, standing atop a podium on behalf of Team USA with the American flag draped across her back.
“It was really emotional and super exciting. I don’t think my heart rate went back down to normal for an hour or two after,” Heims said.
“Standing up on the podium and hearing the national anthem, that’s something I’ve always dreamed about. So (experiencing) that was very emotional and also made me really want to be able to do that again at Worlds and at the (Olympic) games next year.”
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Heims will compete next at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championship in Dubai this November, a qualifying meet for the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo. Leading up to November, she will only slightly alter her training.
“(Training) doesn’t change too much in the amount of how many times I practice, but we kind of focus in more as we get closer (to Worlds),” Heims said. “So I do more event-specific training and we have a lot shorter intervals of training.”