Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Documentary will highlight the many sacrifices Irish Paralympic hopefuls must make

A documentary telling the stories of elite Irish Paralympic athletes is to air on Setanta Ireland.

‘Beyond Limits' — which features Belfast's Michael McKillop and Eglinton's Jason Smyth — will be shown free-to-air on Monday August 27 at 9.45pm.

The documentary will chronicle the preparations undergone by Irish Paralympic athletes ahead of London 2012, as they attempt to overcome physical barriers to compete at the highest level for their countries.

Mark Pollock, the blind and paralysed adventure athlete, will present ‘Beyond Limits' and speak to competitors in a diverse range of sports — from boccia to swimming, running, cycling and equestrian dressage.

Smyth is currently the second fastest man in Ireland, having been narrowly beaten by Olympian Paul Hession in July's National Track And Field Championships.

He almost qualified for the 100m in the Olympics but missed out by only four hundredths of a second in the final qualifying event. Smyth was a double gold medalist in Beijing and for the last three years the visually impaired 25-year-old has been training with Tyson Gay in America.

Gay, himself the second fastest man in the world behind Usain Bolt, once claimed that Smyth had better sprinting technique than him.

“For an athlete it's about putting yourself in a high performance environment to allow you to grow and develop and improve, and that's what I've been able to be a part of in America,” Smyth said.

Smyth will be hoping this training regime will help him retain his Beijing gold medals in the 100m and 200m.

Despite his 2008 success, Smyth’s feet are on the ground ahead of the London Games.

“It’s always about what’s going on at the present time and success in the past is fantastic but it’s also very easily forgotten, so it’s about now and that’s why now is so important,” Smyth said.

Michael McKillop, who has cerebral palsy, holds both the 800m and 1500m world records, and is a full-time athlete — trained by his father Paddy. He has also competed in able-bodied events.

“When it comes to running you can see the competitive streak in me and I never want to lose. My heart is set on running as many Games and breaking as many world records and winning as many world titles as possible,” McKillop said.

Other Irish athletes are featured in the documentary, including world Tandem Cycling champion Catherine Walsh.

This will be the mother-of-two’s sixth Paralympic Games — she juggles her athletics exploits with a career in physiotherapy.

Walsh is visually impaired, and along with sighted pilot Fran Meehan she will be aiming to set a new world record in London over the next few weeks.

Also appearing are Helen Kearney, Mark Rohan, Darragh McDonald and Padraic Moran.

‘Beyond Limits' will be repeated on August 28 at 12.30pm and August 29 at 3pm.

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