Belfast Telegraph

Jason Smyth: Derry to honour Paralympics' Usain Bolt

Jason Smyth
Jason Smyth
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

The fastest athlete in Paralympic history, Jason Smyth, will be honoured with a civic reception in Co Londonderry after his success in the Rio games.

The 29-year-old sprinter from Eglinton - described by commentators as the Usain Bolt of the Paralympic Games - added another gold medal to his cache after winning the 100m in Brazil in just 10.64 seconds.

This brings his Paralympic gold medal count to five since he first competed in the Beijing Games in 2008.

He could have matched his double gold success from Beijing and London in Rio had the International Paralympic Committee not opted to remove the 200m from the events table.

Nonetheless, Jason still cemented his status as the fastest disabled runner of all time.

Smyth has only 10% vision because of a genetic condition called Stargardt disease.

Following his success in the London games in 2012, a letterbox in his home village was painted gold in his honour.

The proposal for a civic reception was made by SDLP councillor Martin Reilly, who said Smyth's contribution to sport had been immense.

He added: "When Jason won double gold in the 2012 London Games, building on his earlier similar success in Beijing in 2008, there were great celebrations in his home village of Eglinton.

"I proposed that we honour him again when he returns from these Games in Rio as his contribution to sport in this city and further afield continues to be immense and inspirational.

"Jason has won the same number of gold medals as Usain Bolt, but has been given nowhere near the same level of recognition.

"I'm glad to say that all councillors agreed to this proposal and council officers will now engage with Jason, his family and the community in Eglinton to finalise plans."

The civic reception will be held in Derry's Guildhall, organised by the council on a date yet to be arranged.

Jason is due back in Eglinton on Saturday, where a welcome home event has been organised.

Jane Davidson, chairwoman of the Eglinton Annual Show, said: "The committee has planned a reception and a run from his old primary school in Eglinton to the community centre in Main Street.

"We have asked pupils and past pupils of Eglinton and Broadbridge Primary schools to assemble around 1.45pm ready to go off with Jason at 2pm and accompany.

"We hope he will not run at quite the pace he did in Rio or no one will be able to keep up with him."

Belfast Telegraph


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