Derry City Track Club’s Jason Smyth is the world’s fastest Paralympic athlete and that is official. The two-time double Paralympic gold medalist has confirmed his status after a lightening fast run in Rio this week.
Smyth, who suffers from Stargardt’s Disease which means he only has 10% vision, won a 100m race involving sprinters from all disability classes at an event marking the one-year milestone until next year’s Paralympic Games.
The Eglinton man triumphed in 10.73 seconds, ahead of the American Richard Browne and Brazil’s Petrucio Ferreira. The race at Rio’s Rodrigo de Freitas lake was part of a two-day festival celebrating the games.
Smyth, who holds the 100m record of 10.46 seconds in the T13 class for visually impaired athletes, said the race set him up nicely for next year.
“It was fantastic,” said Smyth. “I am very pleased with the result and even more so because so many people came to watch. The event was very well organized and I’m sure that Rio is on the right track for next year.”
Smyth may be going into a new class next year after being re-categorized to T12 ahead of the 2014 IPC European Championships in Swansea where won both 100 and 200m gold medals.
That reclassification reflected a deterioration of his vision but as one of the biggest stars in the world of Paralympic sport he is looking forward to returning for the games in twelve months time.
“It’s so exciting to be only one year away, we’re getting close. It’s going to be an incredible Games here in Rio,” he said. “I’ve only been here two days and I love the city already. The weather, for winter, is incredible.
“I’ve never been anywhere that is so naturally beautiful and the people have been very friendly, so I think Brazil is going to do a very good job of hosting the Games.”
Smyth has been based in London for the past two years where he is coached by former British international Clarence Callender at the Lea Valley facility. The race is Rio was only his second competitive outing of the year as he prepares for the World IPC Championships in Doha next month.
Derry City Track Club may have two competitors in action at the championships with Conor McIlveen awaiting confirmation of his selection for Ireland in the T37 400m.
McIlveen took two gold medals at the World Cerebral Palsy Games in Nottingham last month and contests the British championships in ten days time.
Meantime arrangements are well advanced for the challenge road relay with Acorns AC on the Foyle Greenway next week DCTC will be taking on their Magherafelt rivals in Senior Men, Masters Men and Senior Women relays.