Derry Track Club athlete Jason Smyth struck gold again at the IPC World Athletics Championships in Qatar. Despite carrying the weight of favoritism on his shoulders, he turned in a clinical performance to add another world championship gold medal to their already impressive list of successes.
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 home 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.”
The Eglinton man arrived back at his London home the early hours of last Sunday morning but is still (at time of writing, awaiting the arrival of the baby.
“It’s a weight off my shoulders getting back from Doha with a gold medal,” Smyth said. “I didn’t want to make anything of it at the time but I went into hospital in January for an operation on my knee and the recuperation took much longer than expected.
“I’ve been under pressure all summer to get back in shape for the championships. Luckily they were held in October because if it had been earlier I wouldn’t have been able to compete. I can now relax a while before getting back in training and working toward Rio. It’s a big year coming up!”
Meanwhile Smyth’s Derry Track Club colleagues were competing at the Bobby Rea Cross Country Meeting at the University of Ulster Jordanstown last weekend. And it was the ladies who stole the show with Lily Toorish racing to a fine sixth place finish in the U14 Ulster championship and Amy McDaid showing in the senior women’s race she is back to her best after a year out of the sport.
The St. Cecilia’s pupil started cautiously but soon moved through the field to lie in sixth place with 800m to run. A strong charge down the final hill took Lily up to fourth but she ran out of steam and slipped back to sixth at the line.
That was good enough to take her through to the Irish final at Santry Demesne, Dublin on November 22. Kayla McLaughlin ran well to take 43rd on her debut at this level and will improve with experience.
Amy McDaid caught the eye with an 18th spot in the senior women’s race. After a year out of the sport, the young woman from the Creggan is getting back to her very best and should go well in the upcoming Ulster Novice championship.
Ben Mellon ran well in the boys’ U14 race without ever getting involved. The St. Columb’s College pupil crossed the line in 67th which is no reflection of his ability.
Sean McIntyre was running up a year in boys’ U16 race but impressed with a 30th place finish. Brandon Connolly was also pitted against opponents of up to 16 months older than himself in the U18 boys’ contest but shrugged off the disadvantage to also take 30th.
Conor Doherty was the first Derry Track Club athlete home in the senior men’s race with a good run for 21st spot in a field of almost 200 . Conor’s younger brother Matt also impressed with a dogged display for 34th. Darragh Crossan completed the DTC scoring trio in 54th to give the green and blacks a sixth place of the competing 20 clubs.
Kevin Connolly (97th), Shaun Deery (114th) and Conor McIlveen (115th) all stuck gamefully to their task to complete the testing eight kilometre course.
Elsewhere British Masters’ 800m indoor champion Tim Shiels showed he is wintering well with a win in the Portrush parkrun. Behind him Robert Bigger also impressed with a third place finish.