The legend just continues to grow as Jason Smyth adds another Paralympic gold medal. The 34-year-old Eglinton sprinter breasted the tape yesterday for victory in the T13 100m at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics after what was the tightest race of his career. It was his sixth gold Paralympic gold medal in a career that stretches back to Seoul in 2008 and he remains unbeaten in that period.
However, never before did he have to dip so frantically as he did on this occasion with Algeria’s Skander Djamil Athmani closing down the Irish man’s advantage in the final phase of the race.
Unlike the sluggish start in his heat earlier in the morning, Smyth was out of the blocks like a bullet in the final, gaining a two metre advantage on Athmani, who is the national able-bodied record holder of Algeria with a 10.29 second mark.
After that it was a case on clinging on and the Derry Track Club sprinter did just that, straining every last sinew in his body, as Athmani gained by the stride.
A last desperate lunge at the line saw Smyth home by the finest of margins, one-hundredth of a second, in a new Paralympic record of 10.53 seconds. Mission accomplished! And it was a relieved and happy Smyth, draped in a tricolour, who spoke after the event.
“Delighted, obviously an extremely close race. I knew coming into it that the Algerian had run quick in the heats, and he’s run very quick this year – quicker than I have,” he said with obvious relief.
“So, I knew I was up against it. If I reflect back on the year I’ve had, it’s probably one of the toughest years I’ve had in quite a while with injuries. Nine months ago, I was wondering if this was me done. Three months ago, I was wondering would I be at the Games and to be able to be at this level. But we got things right and we came together right at the right time.”