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Jason Smyth in world bid as double Olympic dream is dashed

By Frank Brownlow

Published 22/10/2015

Full speed ahead: Jason Smyth begins his quest for 100m gold in the IPC World Championships today in Doha
Full speed ahead: Jason Smyth begins his quest for 100m gold in the IPC World Championships today in Doha

Jason Smyth is remaining upbeat despite having been denied the chance of a unique hat-trick next summer in Rio.

Smyth will today begin his bid for 100m gold at the IPC World Championships in Doha — before returning home at the weekend to be with his wife Elise for the birth of the couple’s first child.

The 28-year-old won the sprint double at Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and was gunning for a  repeat at Rio 2016. But that chance has been taken away from the Eglinton athlete. 

The visually impaired sprinter’s two doubles came in the T13 category before he was reclassified as T12 last year.

Smyth has been reinstated to T13 competition following further tests. But the T13 category will only have a 100m in Rio, with T12 having both sprints.

The International Paralympic Committee opted in 2013 to drop the T13 200m, but Smyth’s reclassification to T12 put him in line to double up again in Rio.

A statement yesterday from the IPC said that Smyth’s classification status was found to be “borderline” when he was tested before last year’s IPC European Championships in Swansea.

The statement added: “All of the results of the assessment placed him in the T12 class.

“He was however placed under review status. The review was conducted this week and his results were again borderline but all were in the T13 class so he was moved back.

“As last year’s result came as a surprise to all concerned, the IPC acknowledges that in retrospect it should have asked Smyth to undergo a second classification at that time.”

No further review is scheduled until 2019.

Smyth competes in able bodied races at world level, suffering the heartbreak of just missing out on 100m qualification for the London Olympics — he is the Northern Ireland record holder with a time of 10.22 seconds.

He holds the IPC world records at both 100m (10.46) and 200m (21.05), both set at the London Paralympics in 2012.

“It was a surprise to me last year that I had been moved to a T12 and was difficult to deal with, so I’m pleased that my status as T13 has been clarified,” said Smyth, who has the degenerative condition Stargardt disease, which limits his vision to the outlines of shapes.

“However it is disappointing that I definitely won’t have the chance to defend two of my Paralympic titles in Rio.

“At least I can put all my energies into the 100m and continue to try to run faster and bridge the gap between Paralympic and able-bodied sport.”

Smyth, who won double T13 gold at the last IPC World Championships in Lyon two years ago, will only be competing in the 100m in Doha due to impending fatherhood.

Immediately after Saturday’s 100m, Smyth will travel home to be with Elise, who is due to give birth to the couple’s first child on Sunday.

Despite the family’s imminent new arrival, confident Smyth maintains he is fully focused on retaining his world 100m title.

“Whether I run T12 or T13, I will still want to achieve what I want to achieve — winning gold here and going on to hopefully compete at next year’s Olympics and Paralympics,” he said.

“This is a big event for me to set a platform for next year,” he stressed.

“Over the last month or two I have been building on each race and my last race before coming out here was my quickest so hopefully I can go and run quicker here.”

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