Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Jason Smyth stepping up pace on long road to Rio

Jason Smyth is concentrating on qualifying for the Olympics in Rio

Jason Smyth missed out on the London Olympics by a fraction of a second — making him more determined than ever to compete at the Rio Games in 2016.

And the perfect first step along the road to Rio would be the successful defence of his Paralympic 100m and 200m titles.

“I am focused on making it to Rio 2016,” said Smyth.

“Sprinters come into their prime between the age of 28 and 32. I am 25 now so that bodes well for Rio.

“And I want to be at the World Championships, Europeans and Commonwealths along the way.”

Smyth, who is visually impaired, is currently at a Team Ireland training camp ahead of the London Paralympics, which open on August 29.

“It’s now just all about focus and preparing to compete in London.

“It’s about getting your head right and not getting distracted.

“I’m going in as the champion at 100m and 200m and anyone in that situation has to be thinking about defending those titles,” he said.

“If I didn’t have that mindset I would be concerned.

“I have improved a lot from four years ago so hopefully I can go out and run well in London,” he said.

“Training has been going really well.

“Obviously I just missed out on the Olympics and that was disappointing.

“I watched the Games on television and the whole event was fantastic. There was a great buzz about the whole thing.

“I was watching it and just wanting to be out there on the track.

“I watched the 100m and I didn’t get too down about it.”

The Eglinton man spends much of his time in Florida, training alongside Tyson Gay (below), the second fastest man in history, who finished fourth in the 100m final in London.

“I know Tyson Gay would have been looking to get a medal,” said Smyth.

“I was training with him day-in and day-out and I know how much work he put in and how much he wanted a medal.

“To be fair to him, he has come through a lot of injury problems.

“At one point it didn’t look as if he was going to make it.

“In a way finishing fourth was good but I know in an other way he will have been devastated. I know from training with him he is world class — the second quickest man of all time.

“So when you are that good you will not be happy unless you go all the way.”

And Smyth could only look on with admiration as Usain Bolt repeated his Olympic sprint double.

“Bolt does what he does — he’s just a phenomenal athlete,” Smyth said.

“He wasn’t as impressive as he was four years ago when he broke the two world records although if he is level with someone half way through the race then you know it’s all over,” he added.

Smyth’s heroics in the Beijing Paralympics saw him compared to the great Jamaican, both men completing their respective sprint doubles.

Smyth's 100m personal best of 10.22 seconds set last year was only four one-hundredths of a second outside the ‘A’ qualifying time for the Olympics.

“I don’t think my time was as good as it should have been — I feel I should have achieved the 100m ‘A’ standard and got to the Olympics,” maintained Smyth, who will be experiencing a few changes in his build-up to Rio.

“I am getting married at the end of the year so it’s been an extremely busy few months.

“My coach Stephen Maguire is moving on to a new job so everything in my life is changing,” he explained.

“I'm looking at probably going back to the States and hopefully getting a new coaching situation sorted out with a view towards aiming for Rio.

“I want to give it another really good shot over the next four years.”

Smyth became the first Paralympian to compete at a European Championships in Barcelona in 2010 and he also made it to the World Championships in Daegu.

Apart from South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, he will be arguably the highest profile competitor at the Paralympics.

Then his focus will turn towards Rio where the 100m qualifying mark may be even quicker than the London ‘A’ standard of 10.18 seconds.

“I want to reach my potential and I haven't done that yet,” said Smyth.

“Europeans and World Championships are good stepping stones to try and compete at the Rio Olympics and I will be aiming to compete in those as well my normal paralympic competitions.”

Rio could be grand for Jason Smyth.

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