Cometh the hour, cometh the man and sprinter Jason Smyth delivered once again, winning the T13 100m at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai. It was Ireland’s only gold medal of the meeting and Smyth’s eighth world title since he came on the scene in 2006. His time of 10.54 (+0.6 wind reading) seconds was the best time ever run in the category at a World Para Championships.
The Derry Track Club athlete had stretched his legs in the morning with a comfortable win in his heats but looked nervous as he assumed his starting position for the eight-man final. Salah Khelaifia was first out of the blocks, but Smyth was level by 30 metres before the Algerian clutched his thigh and pulled up before the halfway distance. After that it was all Smyth as he pulled away to break the tape, well clear of Australia’s Chad Perris, whom many had thought would give the Irishman a run for his money.
Earlier in the Championships, Smyth had watched Petrucio Ferreira erase his name from the record books when the Brazilian posted the two fastest times in a 100m race of a major Para athletics championships. The Brazilian made his intentions clear in the 100m T47 morning heats blazing to a world record time of 10.42, shading Smyth’s record of 10.46 seconds set at the London Paralympics in 2012. Ten hours later, Ferreira was just two-hundredths of second outside that mark, but it was enough to seal the gold with ease and set up a remarkable cleansweep of all three medals by his countrymen.
It is always sad to witness end of an era as was the case yesterday as the previously undefeated Michael McKillop finished out of the medals in the T38 1500m at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai. Defending champion McKillop fought hard down the final straight but could not get into a podium place as newcomer Canadian Nate Riech turned in an impressive display of tactics and power to race away with the title in 4:02.04.
McKillop found a season’s best of 4:09.07 only good enough on this occasion for fourth. Up until yesterday McKillop had been the dominant athlete in the event but new classifications and merging of T37 and T38 categories contributed to the end of his reign for the 29-year-old Randalstown resident.
Anders Lagergren sprinted into the lead from the gun and led the field through the opening lap in a swift 64 seconds. McKillop looked smooth back in the chasing pack while Ireland’s other representative David Leavy struggled to maintain contact. The Dane then faded rapidly, ending up 11th, as the favourite Riech moved to the front with two laps to go and started to open up a gap on the field.
The Canadian had ten metres to the good as the bell sounded with only Algeria’s Abdelkrim Krai looking as though he posed any danger to Riech. McKillop, in fifth, was visibly struggling with the pace. The man from British Columbia continued his relentless pace at the front to come home the most impressive of winners some 30 metres ahead of Krai as McKillop mounted a late surge to snatch fourth from another Canadian Liam Stanley.
The first three finishers were all T38, a lesser form of disability to McKillop who is a T37, meaning the former North Belfast Harrier was the leading competitor in the latter category, setting a T37 championship record. David Leavy stuck manfully to his own pace throughout to register a personal best 4:23.86 in ninth. Ireland’s other competitor yesterday, Mary Fitzgerald, finished out of the medals in the F40 shot put.
Unfortunately, there was no medal for Kerry man Jordan Lee who went into the T47 high jump second-ranked but was beaten for the bronze medal on countback after clearing 1.87m at his third attempt. India’s Nishad Kumar was the winner of the event with a 1.94m clearance on his first effort to keep a clean sheet without a failure throughout the competition.
DTC’s Conor McIlveen acquitted himself well in the heats of the T38 400m. With only four days to acclimatise and a severe classification to endure just 48 hours before his heat, McIlveen finished seventh in 58.86 seconds.