Irish Paralympic athletes Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop both did the business again at the IPC World Athletics Championships in Qatar. Despite carrying the weight of favoritism on their shoulders, both men turned in clinical performances to add world championship gold medals to their already impressive list of successes.

Jason Smyth in action at NI Champs 2014
Jason Smyth in action at NI Champs 2014

For Smyth, it was as much a race against time as the opposition with his wife expecting their first baby any day now. Immediately after Saturday’s final he was on his way to the airport to arrive back in time for the birth.

The Derry Track Club athlete had qualified confidently from his heat on Friday with a 10.78 seconds timing but still looked nervous as he lined up for the eight-man final in the Suhaim Bin Hamad Stadium. He was sluggish out of the blocks as Bulgaria’s Radoslav Zlatanov was first to show.

However, Smyth was quickly into his running and had hit the front by halfway before going on to break the electronic beam in a more than credible 10.62 seconds. Brazil’s Gustavo Araujo came through to take a distant second place in 10.90 with Chad Peris of Australia nabbing the bronze in 10.96 as the Bulgarian slipped back to fifth.

It was the fifth World IPC Championships gold for Smyth to add to his four Paralympic gold medals.

“It was great to get out there and start competing. It’s been a couple of years since the world championships, so it’s just great to be here and thankfully cross the line first. I am very happy with my time, obviously you always want to be quicker but at the end of the day I got gold and that’s all that matters for me.”

Smyth’s room-mate McKillop retained the T38 800m title 90 minutes later in a season’s best time of 2:01.31. The St. Malachy’s athlete, unlike Smyth, will be looking to add a second gold medal when he defends his T37 1500m title next Friday.

The Glengormley man, who has a mild form of cerebral palsy, opened up a big lead in the first 400m and although Tunisia’s Abbes Saidi was closing rapidly in the final furlong, McKillop held on to win by over a second.

Michael McKillop
Michael McKillop

“This gold medal means a lot to me and I will forever remember this day, not because of the time but because I never thought I would get to the start line after a really horrific injury,” said McKillop who was hurt in a domestic accident. “It’s been so tough mentally but thanks to my family, and especially my girlfriend’s support, I am here and I am still unbeaten.”

McKillop’s victory maintains an unbeaten record in Paralympic competition which now stretches back to his 1500m silver medal at the 2006 IPC World Championships in Assen. Since then he won a gold medal at Beijing Paralympics in 2008 before doing the middle distance double in London.

Late on Friday evening Ireland’s Niamh McCarthy took third place in the discus final (F41 class) with a throw of 23.66 metres. McCarthy, from Carrigaline in Cork, showed little sign of nerves as she snatched the bronze medal with her final throw at what is her first world championships.


The Benefits of Beetroot for Runners

In the last few years there have been a number of studies that have shown the significant benefits of consuming beetroot in improving athletics performance. The good news for both club and recreational fun runners is that it is not necessary to be an elite athlete to take advantage of the benefits of beetroot. In fact the contrary may be the case.

No matter what the form beetroot is good for your running.
No matter what the form beetroot is good for your running.

The reason that the much-maligned tuber is an aid to athletic performance is down to the high concentrations of nitrates that it contains. Nitrate (NO3) is a molecule produced in only limited quantities in the body and solely as a bi-product of nitric oxide.

Eating beetroot or green leaf vegetables such as spinach can increase nitrate levels in our bodies. Once in the system, it interacts with enzymes in saliva to form Nitric Oxide in the cardio-vascular system that in turn improves the vasodilation i.e. the capacity of the veins to carry blood.

This is achieved by dilating the blood vessels and in that way increasing the blood flow. The consequence of this is a fall in blood pressure at rest and a greater oxidisation of the muscles during exercise.

One test (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19913611) found that nitrate supplementation produced two distinct and contrasting outcomes. There was a reduction in the maximum VO2 yet the time to the point of exhaustion improved significantly.

In another study on cyclists (Handzlik y Gleeson) it was seen that a mixture of beetroot juice and caffeine brought about a 46% increase in time to exhaustion point over the placebo group. The increase even without the caffeine showed a significant improvement. In addition, drinking the beetroot and caffeine cocktail gave the test subjects the perception of having to expend less effort.

Studies have also shown that the most positive effect is on middle distance performances in events lasting between 5 and 30 minutes. That is to say, those who will benefit the most are athletes who run distances from 1500 – 10,000m.

In another study (Murphy et al), the participants consumed 500 milligrams of nitrate (the equivalent of 200/300 grams of beetroot). It was found that not only did they improve their times in the 5000 metres but also they felt better in the first third of the race and they ran the final 1800m 5% quicker.

Some improved their 5000m times by 41 seconds! However, it is not all good news. In another experiment with elite 1500m runners (3:56 or better), they found that six of the eight showed no improvement in performance after consuming nitrates. That merely confirmed that supplementation is only effective in events between 5 and 30 minutes.

Results have shown that ideal consumption for a person of 70kgs to be between 448 and 896 grams of nitrate per day. The effects should be seen within two to three hours after which they will start to diminish. Although some have benefitted from a single dose, the investigators have generally fed their subjects nitrate anywhere between three and six days ahead of the tests.

It is believed to be best to take beetroot in liquid form but one well-known sailor achieved outstanding results after consuming a can of spinach when faced by a situation that required a little extra effort.



Family comes first for Ireland’s Jason Smyth despite the Paralympic Athletics World Championships opening this week in Doha. The two-time Paralympic double Paralympic sprint gold medallist is on the comeback trail having undergone minor knee surgery earlier this year.

Jason Smyth in action at NI Champs 2014
Jason Smyth in action at NI Champs 2014

However, that is not the reason the Derry City Track Club athlete will not be defending his 200m title in Qatar. Instead he has a more important fixture at that time – his wife Elise is expected to give birth to their first child.

“My wife is actually due on the 25th of October so that’s probably the more important reason that I’m just doing the 100m,” said Smyth. “I actually arrive back home on the morning of the 25th so it’s going to be a bit close.

“It has been a tricky year and quite a long year. This year there is that aspect of having to take a step back in order to, hopefully, take two steps forward. That’s just something I had to do. It’s been difficult but my expectation is still to go there and win gold.”

The Eglinton man had an operation on his knee earlier this season but nothing serious was found to be amiss. However, the rehabilitation took much longer than expected meaning that Smyth has raced lightly this season. He ran two low-key 100m races at Lee Valley in August before winning the 100m in Rio against the fastest Paralympic sprinters in the world.

The 28-year-old has been living in London for the past couple of years where he is coached by Clarence Callander, Previously he was guided by Stephen Maguire who now heads up Sprints, Hurdles and Relays at UK Athletics. It is probable following the birth of the baby that he might return home to Eglinton on run in to next year’s Rio Paralympics.

Smyth is one of nine Paralympic athletes named to represent Ireland at the IPC World Championships. Belfast man Michael McKillop, like Smyth a double gold medallist at the London Paralympics, is also included in the squad as well as thrower Orla Barry who took bronze in 2012. The IPC Paralympic Athletics World Championships run from October 22 – 31.

Derry City Track Club Squads Impress at NI Road Relays

Derry City Track Club continued to make its presence felt at provincial level with three top seven places in the four races at the Northern Ireland Road Relay Championships in Belfast.

A record 151 teams entered the event that was held in ideal autumnal conditions and excellently organised by host club Orangegrove at the idyllic Victoria Park in east Belfast.

Adrian Boyle kicks off for DCTC in the Masters' Relay
Adrian Boyle kicks off for DCTC in the Masters’ Relay

The Master Men’s squad were best placed of the DCTC squads with a close-up fifth place. That was one better than the Senior Men while the Senior Women also impressed with a solid seventh place on their debut at this level.

Adrian Boyle led off for the Master Men with a solid 10:58 timing for the 3380m two lap course. That meant Tim Shiels went off in tenth place which the Omagh-based pastor improved to joint seventh at the second changeover after a 11:13 split.

Gary McGee turned in his usual solid performance on the third leg with an 11:31 timing. That took the green and blacks up to a clear seventh with their top runner still to come.

IMG_1252 Cathal McLaughlin did not shirk from the task and was able to haul in another two teams with a 10:45 clocking. That left DCTC just one second behind County Derry rivals Acorns in fourth and 69 seconds outside the medals. But it was the club’s best ever placing in the race after sixth and ninth places in the previous two years.

A DCTC B team of Malcolm McCausland (13:37), Robert Bigger (11:59), Kevin Connolly (12:24) and David Mellon (15:40) finished 37th of the 44 starters.

The Senior Women’s race followed and Hannah McGowan made a promising start for the Derry girls with a creditable 12:49 timing for tenth place. Amy McDaid had a cracking second leg with 12:47 split to move DCTC up to seventh at the final changeover.

Helen Stockdale

Former NI 5K road champion Helen Stockdale took over for the final stage and, despite having her first race in well over 12 months, was able to steer the the girls in green home in an excellent seventh place with a 13:29 clocking.

Probably the best wine was left to last and but for the loss of a key runner at the eleventh hour could have caused a real shock in the Senior Men’s race. Darragh Crossan opened with a 10:30 timing that left the Foylesiders back in tenth.

Matt Doherty on the charge from 8th – 2nd.

New recruit Conor Doherty impressed a fine 10:13 clocking which took the team up another two places on the leader board. Conor handed over to younger brother Matt who set the race alight with another 10:13 timing that rocketed DCTC up to second as the runners went off on the final leg.

Conor McIlveen had to step into the breach at the last minute but undaunted turned in a well-timed leg to steer DCTC home in sixth place with an impressive 12:19 effort.

Sean McIntyre
Sean McIntyre

Sean McIntyre finished an impressive third in the Boys’ U15 race with Ben Mellon, Lily Toorish and Kayla McLaughlin also turning in solid performances. Brandon Connolly also caught the eye, finishing just outside the medals in the U15 Boys’ contest.




Masters Women (3 x 3380m): 1 City of Lisburn (Ann Terek 12:19, Diane Watson 12:45, Kelly Neely 11:35 (fastest of the race)) 36:38 (Record), 2 North Belfast Harriers 37:21, 3 Ballymena Runners Club 37:51, 4 Ballydrain Hrs 37:54, 5 Lagan Valley 38:46, 6 North Down 40:29.

Masters Men (4 x 3380m): 1 Willowfield (Brian Campbell 10:17, Neill Weir 11:17, Paul Rowan 10:44, Chris Moren 10:34) 41:51, 2 North Belfast Hrs 42:40, 3 Ballymena Runners Club 43:17, 4 Acorns AC 44:25, 5 Derry City TC 44:26, 6 Newcastle 44:45. Fastest: Stephen Duncan Omagh Hrs 10:05.

Senior Women (3 x 3380m): 1 Newcastle & District (Kerry O’Flaherty 10:49 (fastest of the race), Joanna Mills 11:38, Mari Troeng 12:04) 34:30, 2 North Belfast Harriers 34:37, 3 North Down 35:23, 4 Dromore 35:51, 5 Springwell RC 37:07, 6 Beechmount Hrs 37:12, 7 Derry City TC 38:44.

Senior Men (4 x 3380m): 1 North Belfast Hrs (Adam Boyd 9:55), Mark McKinstry 10:02, 3 Conal McCambridge 10:32, Andrew Annett 10:02) 40:29, 2 St. Malachy’s 41:21, 3 North Down 41:31 (Fastest: Paddy Robb St. Malachy’s 9:52 tbc), … 6 Derry City TC 43:14