Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Jason Smyth homes in on major 2013 targets

Ireland's Jason Smyth

Northern Ireland's fastest man Jason Smyth is home from Florida. He got hitched to his American sweetheart Elise almost six months ago and married life seems to be agreeing with him.

Cool, calm and collected when speaking about his outstanding athletics career, the 25-year-old's tone changes when Elise crops up in conversation.

"It's great to have someone to share everything with," says Jason, a mormon, whose wedding took place at the world famous Salt Lake Temple in Utah in December.

There's love and tenderness in his voice and joy when he explains that his bride will be joining him in County Londonderry from the States in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime Smyth, who unless asked never mentions his eye condition called Stargardt Disease which reduces vision to roughly 10% of an an average person's eyesight, is focusing on representing Ireland in the 100m in the European Team Championships in Dublin at the weekend before racing at the official opening of the new Mary Peters track on Tuesday.

Last year was huge for the former Limavady Grammar pupil, retaining his Paralympic 100m and 200m titles in London in the T13 class months after he reached the semi-finals of the able bodied European Championships. His only disappointment was missing out on the qualifying time for the Olympics.

This year also promises to be a big deal for Eglinton's finest. There's the Paralympic World Championships in France in July and the World Championships, Usain Bolt and all, in Russia in August.

So far Smyth, having spent most of the year training in America with world class sprinters including Tyson Gay, ranks his season as just "okay". You get the feeling there is more to come.

"There have been no races in which I've put everything together from start to finish, but at the same time I'm happy enough with how things are progressing," says Jason, whose personal best over the 100m is 10.22.

"To make the World Championships in Moscow I'll have to run the qualifying time. The A standard is 10.15 and B standard is 10.21. I don't know if the Irish team will take B standard times but if they do it will still mean me running a PB."

Should he make it to Russia it'll be some achievement. Anything other than double gold in the Paralympics World Championships, however, will be viewed as a disappointment.

In that unflustered manner of his, he says: "Being favourite provides extra pressure and greater expectation but I think I've competed long enough and train with some of the best athletes in the world to be able to deal with that on the big stage. My targets in France will be to win the 100m, and 200m!"

Fast forward a year and Smyth will hopefully be preparing for another major event in Glasgow.

"I'd like to run the standard this year for the Commonwealth Games which is under 10.30," says Smyth.

"The Commonwealth Games are massive for Northern Ireland. Unfortunately the last time in Delhi I was injured. I very much want to be part of our team in Scotland especially with it being so close to home."

There remains debate about Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt competing in Glasgow. Smyth hopes he and other top sprinters in the Commonwealth will be there even if it decreases his own chances of making the latter stages.

"You want to see the likes of Bolt competing," he said. "It's better for the fans and athletes because it raises the standard of competition I certainly want to test myself against the best."

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