Usain Bolt may have been in headlines in the past fortnight but he is not the only sprint superstar aiming to defend his 100m and 200m titles from the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games in Rio next year. Derry City Track Club’s Jason Smyth, the fastest Paralympic ath
lete on the planet, will also be out to etch his name into history at the first edition of the Games to be held in South America.
“Comparisons have been made between me and Bolt,” admitted Smyth, whose world record of 10.46 seconds in the visually impaired T13 class is the fastest time ever posted by a para-athlete, across all classifications. “For me it’s a privilege to be compared to such an incredible athlete both on and off the track, it’s an honour. But Bolt’s got the relay titles too – I need to put together an Irish relay team.”
Relays aside, Smyth confirmed his aim is to come back from Brazil next year with another two gold medals around his neck, saying: “It’s definitely my target, so let’s hope good things happen here in Rio.”
The Eglinton man is currently in Rio where he is to take part in the one year to the Paralympic Games celebrations this weekend. These include a 100m challenge that aims to define the fastest para-athlete on the planet across all classes. This will take place on the second day of a Paralympic Festival on Monday, September 7.
Among Smyth’s rivals will be Australian Evan O’Hanlon, another athlete who will be aiming to defend his 100m and 200m titles from Beijing and London in Rio. O’Hanlon’s world record in the T38 cerebral palsy class of 10.79 seconds is marginally slower than Smyth’s, but Smyth dismissed any talk of being the favourite, instead focusing on what the event means for the Paralympic Movement.
“It’s a great idea and the moment I heard about it I thought, ‘this is a unique opportunity’,” said Smyth. “I’ve been competing in Paralympic sports for 10 years and not once have I had the chance to race against people with different disabilities. It’s all about getting people from all different backgrounds together in a celebration of what Paralympic sports is about.”
Two Derry Track athletes made a quiet start to the autumn season. Amy McDaid had her first competition in 15 months went she took part in the Acorns 5K in Magherafelt. On a tough and hilly course, the Creggan woman was pleased with her 21:09 timing and appreciative of the pacing afforded to her by clubmate Darragh Crossan.
Malcolm McCausland made the crossing to Rathlin Island where local club Foyle Valley were out in force. Again on a testing course, McCausland finished tenth in the 5K race in 21:36.