Athletics: Jason Smyth targets European final spot
City of Derry's Jason Smyth was the talk of Barcelona last night after qualifying for today's European 100 metres semi-finals.
The double Paralympic sprint champion finished fourth in his heat in 10.43 secs behind new French sprint star Christophe Lemaitre (10.19secs) and Olympic medallist Mark Lewis Francis (10.23 secs).
Smyth had been struggling with a minor injury in recent weeks but showed no signs of it as he exploded out of the blocks at the gun and set himself up for a time which was just 0.11 secs slower than his recent Northern Ireland record.
The affable 23-year-old was unflustered by the massive media attention he received after the race which centred around his visual impairment.
He said he was adjusting well from the Paralympic environment to racing against able-bodied sprinters, even if it meant he was making the move from being top of the heap.
“At the Paralympics you're number one, you're expected to win which is nice, going there knowing you're supposed to win and could potentially go home with gold,” he said. “But here the competition's a lot harder. You get away with very little, you've got to be on your top game.”
There was a further gutsy Irish display in the w3omen's 800 metres where Rose-Anne Galligan finished seventh in her heat in a new PB of 2 mins 1.76 secs.
The Newbridge girl was in great form to prove that her recent defeat of world junior medallist Ciara Mageean in the Irish Championships was no fluke.
Britain's Jenny Meadows finished second in the race just behind winner Svetlana Klyuka who recorded 1.58.09.
Meanwhile, there was heartbreak for Robert Heffernan in the 20k walk when he finished an agonising 11 secs behind bronze medallist Joao Viera of Portugal in 1 hr 21 mins.
The 31-year-old was in third position for much of the race but then dropped back to fourth at the 14k mark.
Russian Stanislav Emelyanov took the gold medal in 1 hr 20 mins 10 secs.
Irish 400 metres record holder David Gillick showed impressive form in his first round heat where he eased up in the final 30 metres but still managed to record a speedy winning time of 45.84 secs.
“I just wanted to get the first round out of the way,” said Gillick.
“I did what I needed to do, I got out, stayed relaxed and picked it up a little bit down the back straight, but on the bend then began to see where I was and coming into the home straight I had a look just to make sure I stayed ahead and make sure I won.”
Gillick's chief rivals for the gold medal, Belgian Jonathan Borlee and Briton Martyn Rooney, also qualified comfortably and he knows the semi-final is going to be far tougher.
He added: “In the semi-finals you can't wait around, you can't look at anyone, you've just got to put the blinkers on and off you go.”
Teammate Gordon Kennedy also qualified for today's semi-finals with a time of 46.63 secs.
Ferrybank long jumper Kelly Proper failed to record a legal jump in her three qualification attempts.