Belfast Telegraph

Derry's Jason Smyth, the fastest Paralympian in the world, in sprint double

By Guy Aspin

Londonderry's Jason Smyth last night followed in the footsteps of Usain Bolt by completing a London 2012 sprint double.

The 25-year-old, the fastest Paralympian in the world, added the 200 metres crown to his 100m title with another dominant display.

And he went a step further than the self-confessed Jamaican "living legend" by smashing the world record for the third time in four races at the Olympic Stadium.

The only one in the final to have gone under 22 seconds, this was on paper a formality for Smyth. And so it proved as the sprinter, who trains in Florida with Tyson Gay, the joint second-fastest man of all time, clocked 21.05 seconds, 0.90secs ahead of second place and 0.38s quicker than his old world best mark.

Victory ensured the Derry athlete, who is visually impaired because of Stargardt disease, has successfully defended both T13 titles he won four years ago in Beijing.

Smyth completed his lap of honour holding an Irish flag which read 'Jason for double gold' before performing Bolt's trademark 'Lightning Bolt' pose on the podium.

He said: "The people here and the British and the Irish, the cheers and support for me has been absolutely fantastic and I'll never forget it.

"It is a home Games and it's been a pleasure to be here competing."

Smyth, as a Northern Irishman, admitted he could have easily been representing the hosts at these Games.

He added: "I'm not politically Irish or politically British. I could have gone for Britain just as easy as I went for Ireland, but at the time both people were given the opportunity and the sports council in Ireland came on and wanted to support and help me and did whatever they could, whereas whoever was in charge of GB at the time was like 'whatever, whatever'.

"I'm not that bothered and it made my decision very easy, but they've helped me to get where I am today."

Minutes after Smyth's success the 10th British athletics gold medal of the Games was presented to Josie Pearson, who claimed the discus title nine years after breaking her neck in a car accident at the age of 17.

The 26-year-old, who had to give up wheelchair racing after being told the risk of further injury was too great and took up throwing less than two years ago, set three new world records on her way to the most comprehensive of wins.

Pearson was a promising show jumper at the time of the crash in 2003, in which her boyfriend died and she was left paralysed.

She said: "I have always been very determined and I knew I wanted to be Paralympic champion. When you hear that the Games are going to be in your home country that's such an incentive to be the best at what you do.

"I was inspired by watching Athens a year after my accident. At that point we didn't know London was hosting the Games, but that inspired me to get back into sport and to be the best that I can be."

The Bristol-born athlete met Great Britain wheelchair rugby player Alan Ash in hospital during her rehabilitation and he encouraged her to give the sport a go.

It led to her becoming the first woman to represent ParalympicsGB at 'murderball', the most brutal event of them all, in Beijing, before she turned her attention back to individual sport, this time to athletics.

That decision paid off in style today as she launched the disc out to 6.38m, 6.54m and then 6.58m with her first three throws of the competition, extending the F51 record on each occasion.

With the competition also including F52 and 53 athletes, the distances were converted into points, with Pearson's 1122 putting her 242 clear of the rest of the field.

Such was her dominance any of her six throws would have been good enough to win the gold.

She has thrown 6.66m this summer, but the distance was not ratified and so ineligible for the record books.

Pearson added: "I can't quite put into words how I'm feeling at the moment. I am absolutely ecstatic.

"In training I was consistently throwing over the world record so I knew it was a definite possibility that I could do it. To get that first throw and break the world record was such a relief. I was able to relax and then my next two throws were even better. I think I thrive on pressure.

"I can't wait to see than golden postbox (in her hometown of Hay-on-Wye) and my stamp."

Ireland's Catherine O'Neill won silver with a throw of 5.66m for 880 points.

Sprinter Sophia Warner, who will take up a role as UK Athletics' new commercial director after the Games, finished fourth in the T35 100m.

The 38-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, came home in 16.90, 0.48 off a medal.

Mickey Bushell, the 100m champion, just ran out of puff in the closing stages of the 200m as he too came home in fourth place.

The 22-year-old looked like he might be on course for a bronze only for China's Yhao Yufei to sweep past him in the closing stages.

Bushell's time of 26.32 was still a T53 European record, though.

Kieran Tscherniawsky was 10th in the F32/33/34 discus, with Ireland's Raymond O'Dwyer 18th.

Wheelchair racer Shelly Woods' disappointing Games continued as she struggled to live with the late pace in the T54 1500m.

The 26-year-old got boxed in going into the final lap and, when American Tatyana McFadden and Switzerland's Edith Wolf hit the accelerator, the Briton had no answer.

The defending silver medallist came home in sixth place in 3:37.97.

She admitted after her 1500m heat, in which she had looked back to her best, that she had felt like she was "falling out" with the Olympic Stadium.

The Blackpool athlete claimed it had been tough to lift her spirits after her two early two setbacks, and it could well be again for the marathon on Sunday.

Russia-born McFadden, who was abandoned as a child by her parents and adopted aged six from an orphanage by an American, claimed her third gold of the Games.

The 23-year-old is dominating the women's wheelchair events in the same way as David Weir on the men's side.

Sixteen-year-old Jade Jones finished the race in 10th place.

Oscar Pistorius showed he is in no mood to let his beloved Paralympic 400m crown go the same way as his two other titles.

The South African has this week lost his 100m and 200m titles and blundered into the debate over running blades.

But the 400m is the event in which he reached the Olympic semi-finals and, judging by the two heats tonight, he is all but nailed on for gold tomorrow.

The 25-year-old ran a strong first half of the race before he was able to ease up long before the line, coming home in 48.31.

The next faster qualifier, Blake Leeper, who won the first heat, was more than two seconds behind.

Belfast Telegraph


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