Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Sports Person with a disability winners: Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop

Robert Smyth (left), grandfather of Jason Smyth, Michael McKillop (centre) and John Spottiswoode of Disability Needs Ltd
Ballyclare High School
Janice McGeagh, Wendy Houvenaghel and Todd Kelman

There are joint winners in this category because the brilliance of Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop simply could not be separated.



Both men entered London 2012 as Paralympic champions and they left it that way, running superbly to return home to Northern Ireland with two gold medals each.

Michael, who has a form of celebral palsy, put on an awesome show of distance running, triumphing in the 800m and 1500m in the T37 class, breaking world and Paralympic records in the process.

In Beijing four years ago, the Glengormley man won the 800m, so to double up and deliver twice in London was something special.

As well as his gold medals Michael landed another prestigious prize, being named the male athlete who best exemplified the spirit of the Paralympics at the Games – the Whang Youn Dai Achievement award.

For Jason, who has only 10 per cent vision because of an hereditary, degenerative eye condition, 2012 was another magnificent year as, not for the first time, he proved to the world that he is the Usain Bolt of the Paralympics, romping to titles in the 100m T13 class and 200m T13 class, breaking world records in both events.

He had won these events in the Paralympics in 2008, so the pressure was on but the Eglinton sprinter was more than good enough to cope.

Jason finished the year on a high by getting married in America so, all in all, 2012 will never be forgotten by our Paralympic heroes Smyth and McKillop.

Nominee - Bethany Firth

Bethany celebrated a superb gold medal with her brilliant victory in the S14 100m backstroke event at the Paralympics.

This sensational success in August had been preceded by the 16-year-old, who has a learning disability, winning twice at the British Disability Championships in the backstroke and breaststroke events.

2012 will go down as the year when Bethany came of age and led to her winning our Young Player of the Year award.

Nominee - Eilish Byrne

Armagh woman Eilish produced a super performance to collect an equestrian team bronze for Ireland in the Paralympics.

Alongside Helen Kearney, Geraldine Savage and James Dwyer, Eilish did herself proud in the dressage team to take home a much cherished medal from London.

Individually Eilish, born with spina bifida, also impressed when finishing fourth in the freestyle test grade II event on her horse Youri.

Nominee - James Brown

James Brown has a famous name and he continues to amaze with his sporting performances.

At the 2012 Paralympics, partially sighted James, riding with sighted pilot Damien Shaw, won bronze in cycling's tandem road time trial

Earlier in the Games, the Portaferry man, who has now competed in five winter and summer Paralympics across a range of sports, had finished fourth in the 4k pursuit event.

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