‘Super Saturday’ at the London Olympics was one of the greatest days in British sport.
Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford all won glittering gold in the space of little over an hour at the Olympic Stadium.
And if that was Britain’s finest hour, Northern Ireland could be about to experience a Super Saturday in the Paralympics this weekend in the same Olympic Stadium.
That’s because in the space of two hours on Saturday night Northern Ireland athletes will be chasing three gold medals — Jason Smyth in the 100m, Michael McKillop in the 800m and Sally Brown in the 200m.
Smyth and McKillop will enter their races as hot favourites for gold, while Brown — at just 17 years old — is one of the brightest prospects around.
The teen star’s best chances of gold will come in the years ahead but don’t rule her out of the medal shake-up on Saturday night.
Smyth and McKillop are expected to return from London with a pair of gold medals each.
Smyth managed the famed sprint double in the 100m and 200m in Beijing, which saw him compared to Usain Bolt, the great Jamaican also doubling up four years ago and repeating the feat at the London Olympics earlier this month.
“It was a privilege for me to be mentioned in the same breath as the great man. He’s a phenomenal athlete,” said Smyth, who came so close to qualifying for the 100m at the London Olympics, where he could have raced against Bolt.
Smyth, who would have joined Oscar Pistorius as the first Paralympian competing in the Olympics, missed the qualifying mark by an agonising four one-hundredths of a second.
But the Eglinton man, who has broken down sporting barriers by competing at the World and European Championships in recent years, quickly shrugged off the disappointment of his near miss and pledged to qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016.
“I’m only 25 and sprinters tend to peak in their late 20s and early 30s so my best years should be ahead of me. The plan is to compete in Rio,” said Smyth, who spends a large chunk of the year training in Florida with Tyson Gay (pictured), the second fastest man in history behind Bolt, and alongside Yohan Blake.
McKillop should defend his 800m title from Beijing and bag gold in the 1500m, an event that has been added to the Paralympics schedule since 2008 and in which he is world champion and world record holder.
Sprinter Sally Brown and swimmer Bethany Firth are teenage starlets who will shine in London and perhaps approach peak performance in Rio four years from now.
Swimmer Laurence McGivern, despite being only 19, is ranked number eight in the world and will hope to make it to the final and then push the favourites all the way in the hunt for medals.
There is also plenty of experience in the Northern Ireland contingent with equestrian competitor Eilish Byrne, cyclist James Brown and archer Sharon Vennard all seasoned internationals.
On the eve of the Paralympics, bookmakers Ladbrokes are offering 5/4that Team Ireland will achieve a medal haul of 10 or more podium finishes.
And the bookies have admitted that they're looking forward to paying out to patriotic punters should Ireland achieve the historic medal landmark as 49 Irish elite Paralympic athletes, representing 20 counties, prepare for the Games.
What should be the best attended Paralympics in history start tomorrow and conclude on September 9.