Monday, 09 January 2012
By Tom Degun
January 9 – Visually impaired Northern Ireland sprinter Jason Smyth (pictured) has vowed never to turn his back on the Paralympics despite the fact that he is closing in on a place at the London 2012 Olympics.
The 24-year-old from Derry announced himself to the world by claiming gold in the T13 100 and 200 metres at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics, smashing the world record in both races.
Smyth went on to make history as the first Paralympian to compete at an able-bodied European Championships, where he reached the 100m semi-finals, before he went to the able-bodied World Athletics Championships in Daegu, alongside fellow Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, and narrowly missed out on a semi-final place.
Smyth is now back in training at the National Training Centre in Clermont, Florida alongside high profile stable mate Tyson Gay as he looks to secure Olympic qualification but he admits that the Paralympics will be a huge priority for him whatever happens.
“I’ll never stop with the Paralympics,” Smyth told the Irish Independent.
“That’s where it started and no matter what I’ll be, I’ll always be a Paralympic athlete.
“Winning two gold medals at Beijing, you’re always going to want to go back to that.
“The Olympics is a target to reach for.
“You have to aim high or you won’t push yourself [but] I’m never going to treat Paralympics any differently.
“It’s been massive to me and it’s always going to be extremely important.”
Smyth’s 100m personal best of 10.22sec is just four-hundredths of a second shy of the 10.18 that he needs to qualify for the 2012 Olympics and he is confident that training in Florida with the likes of Gay, Keston Bledman, Nickel Ashmeade and Travis Padgett will help him achieve his goal early in the year.
“I’ve been here the last couple of years so I know what I’m getting myself in for,” he said.
“I’ve noticed how much harder we train out here, just the volume and the intensity.
“Athletes are very, very talented but I suppose hard work is part of the reason why the Caribbeans and the Americans are the best in the world.
“At home, the reality is we don’t have the facilities, we don’t have the weather and the athletes to train with.
“So there can’t be many better places in the world to learn.”