Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

World's fastest Paralympian Jason Smyth ‘snubbed’ by London Olympics Anniversary Games

Jason Smyth
Jason Smyth
Jason Smyth defended his 100m and 200m titles at London 2012
Jason Smyth defended his 100m and 200m titles at London 2012
Irish Paralympians Jason Smyth, Mark Rohan, and Michael McKillop at Dublin Airport
Irish Paralympians Jason Smyth, Mark Rohan, and Michael McKillop at Dublin Airport

Four-times Paralympic gold medallist Jason Smyth has been left outraged after not being invited to run at the London Anniversary Games this summer.

The three-day event will take place exactly a year after the Olympics opening ceremony and includes a day of Paralympic competition on July 28.

But the snubbed Londonderry athlete has been left out in the cold.

The visually-impaired sprinter received worldwide attention and praise after securing two gold medals at last year’s London Paralympics, where he repeated his T13 100m and 200m double first achieved at the Beijing Games.

But Smyth, who is now the world’s fastest Paralympian, said he doesn’t understand why he wasn’t asked to take part.

He said: “I've heard absolutely nothing about the Anniversary Games.

“You would expect if they want to push Paralympic sport forward and make it more recognised that, logically, you would use the best athletes to promote it.

“To come out of last year's Games as the fastest Paralympian on the planet — isn't that somebody you would think you would want to have at the Anniversary Games?”

After the euphoria and acclaim of last September, Jason was hoping for an upturn in sponsorship, but he has yet to be approached by anyone.

The 25-year-old feels that he is a victim of “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome because he is based in the United States.

A spokesperson from UK Athletics told the Belfast Telegraph that organisers had to be very selective and that there would be a lot of disappointed athletes.

She said: “At London 2012 we had 170 different track and field events spread over 10 days. This included 15 men's 100m races involving different classes.

“For the Sainsbury's Anniversary Games, which is a one-day event, we're limited to 18 events covering track and field for both men and women over a three to four-hour schedule. Unfortunately, we have to be selective about the events we choose and we understand that there will be British and international athletes who are disappointed not to compete.

“We would love to be able to invite more athletes but our time is limited so we can only schedule one men's and one women's 100m.

“The Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games has been created to celebrate the success of London 2012 one year on and one of the most memorable moments from the Paralympic Games was Jonnie Peacock's famous 100m victory on Thriller Thursday, so it makes sense for us to include his race in the schedule.

“Athletes should be concentrating on their training for the Athletic World Championships in France this year.”

Paralympics Ireland general secretary Liam Harbinson said that his organisation is continuing to make efforts to help secure Smyth a place at the London meeting.

”My understanding is that the Anniversary Games event is run by UK Athletics... and they primarily want to focus [the Paralympic day] on UK athletes,” Harbinson told BBC Radio Ulster.

“But I would like to see Jason compete in London and we are working in the background in the hope of helping to make that happen. The process hasn't been finalised yet and we'll have to see what the final decision from UK Athletics is.”

Quotes

“In the UK and Ireland everybody knew about the Paralympics. And coming out of it, I had the two gold medals and couldn't really have done any more than that. After that, I suppose you expect things to gather a bit of momentum but it has been completely the opposite. Nothing has changed.”

Jason Smyth

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