Jason Smyth gold gets Ulster glory bid off to a flyer
Jason Smyth, the fastest Paralympic athlete of all time, yesterday added to his haul of gold medals when he took the European 100 metres title in style in the IPC European Championships in Swansea.
The 27-year-old Northern Ireland able bodied record holder has four World Championship and four Paralympic golds to his name.
Smyth never looked in any difficulty yesterday as he blasted out of his blocks to establish a clear lead after 20 metres.
The Eglinton sprinter maintained his distinctive free-flowing style to the finish line where his winning margin was a substantial 0.38 seconds.
His time of 10.78 was a little short of the IPC world record of 10.66 – the same time Smyth recently recorded in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Russia's Artem Loginov took silver in 11.16 with bronze going to Spain's Munar Martinez in a PB of 11.19.
London-based Smyth appeared unfazed by the disruption caused by his eve of competition reclassification from T13 to T12 which was, according to the IPC, due to "the progression of his visual impairment (Stargardts disease)."
Smyth's immediate reaction was to express concern that everything had been changed immediately before the competition both with regard to when he was competing and who he was competing against.
After his victory a more sanguine Smyth said: "Getting a gold medal is always a relief and it's great that things have gone well.
"The last minute classification change was tough and I still haven't got my head around it.
"However it doesn't change what I am trying to do which is to run faster and bridge the gap between Paralympic and able bodied sport."
When asked about his possible eyesight deterioration, he commented: "It's not something I have noticed since I was last classified nine years ago. I try not to focus on it."
Smyth will be in action again tomorrow in the 200 metres.
Today's programme in Swansea includes the men's 800 metres final (12.20pm) involving Smyth's compatriot Michael McKillop who will be racing in the T38 category which includes athletes with mild cerebral palsy.
The 24-year-old Glengormley man has had a torrid time since taking another two World Paralympic titles over 800 and 1,500 metres in Lyon a year ago.
In his 800 metres victory, he set a World record of 1.57.17. However shortly after this success McKillop developed a serious pain in his foot which was aggravated by further training.
The St Malachy's man thought at one point that the injury might end his career.
However constant physio over many weeks eventually paid dividends and he has now regained full fitness.