Belfast Telegraph

Tyson Gay backs Northern Ireland’s Jason Smyth for Olympics

Sprint star Tyson Gay — the second fastest man in history behind Usain Bolt — has backed Ulster’s double Paralympic champion Jason Smyth to qualify for the London 2012 Olympics.

The 24-year-old visually-impaired sprinter from Eglinton has shown steady improvement since joining up with top stars such as Gay as part of a world-class training group based in Florida.

Smyth broke his own Northern Ireland 100m record last month with a time of 10.22 seconds to secure the B-standard for both the London Olympics and this year's World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.

Smyth could secure the A-standard when he competes for Ireland in the European Cup in Izmir, Turkey this weekend.

Despite missing out on the A-standard of 10.18 for the Olympics and World Championships in appalling conditions in the Samsung Diamond League meet in New York last Saturday, Gay feels his training partner has the talent to be a serious player in able bodied sprinting.

“If you look at how he has been performing recently, you can see that he is definitely improving at a substantial rate,” said Gay, the 2007 world 100m and 200m champion.

“He ran a personal best just last month and he has such a great attitude where he always wants to improve so I think he can definitely qualify for the London 2012 Olympics next year.

“He has a lot of talent and he doesn't look one bit out of place racing against the able bodied sprinters so he can do just as well as anyone.

“He just needs to keep doing what he is doing in training and the times will come for him,” added the man who holds the United States record for 100m with a time of 9.69 seconds.

Smyth shot to stardom when he set world records on route to victory in both the men's T13 100m and 200m at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics.

He made history as the first Paralympian to compete at the European Championships, reaching the semi-finals of the 100m in Barcelona last summer.

Smyth, whose build-up to the event was hampered by injury, finished fourth in his heat in 10.43 seconds, then just missed out on a place in the final by also finishing fourth in the semis in 10.47.

A back injury caused him to miss last year's Commonwealth Games in India and also the Paralympic World Championships in New Zealand in January, where he was unable to defend his T13 100 and 200 metre titles.

But he has now fully recovered and Gay said that he enjoys training alongside the Ulsterman.

“He is a great guy and a lot of fun to have around,” said Gay.

“He is also really humble and always gives 100 per cent to achieve his goals so it is a pleasure for me to train with him.

“I know that we will see a lot more from him over the next few years.”

Smyth’s coach Stephen Maguire is confident the sprinter will soon secure the Olympic A-standard.

He said: “Jason’s in great shape and right on course to get the A-standard.

“After the European Cup he’ll have a couple of weeks at home and then a few races in Europe before the World Championships in August.”

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