Sensational Jason Smyth savours another golden moment
Jason Smyth is still the sprint king of the Paralympics and after claiming his FIFTH gold medal at the Games, the Northern Ireland athlete has stated his intent to keep on racing to Tokyo 2020.
The 29-year-old from Eglinton showed his class in Rio yesterday to win the T13 100m title for the third time having enjoyed previous triumphs in Beijing (2008) and London (2012).
Had his 200m event not been removed from the athletics programme by the International Paralympic Committee, there is little doubt that he would have won that again for the third time running.
Smyth, whose vision is affected by a condition known as Stargardt's disease, crossed the line in a time of 10.64 seconds, 0.14 ahead of Namibia's Johannes Nambala with Australian Chad Perris in third in 10.83 seconds.
The county Londonderry native, who now lives in Dunmurry with his American-born wife Elise and daughter Evie, was 0.18 seconds outside his own Paralympic world record but what mattered most to him was bringing home a gold medal for his girls.
Elise and Evie were with Jason's family in Eglinton watching the drama unfold on television as Smyth started well, took control of the race and never let go.
In a Belfast Telegraph interview earlier this year, the multiple World champion spoke of his desire to keep on running until the next Paralympics in Tokyo with his motivation that Elise and Evie could see him run in Japan.
After his latest big victory in an incredible career, Smyth confirmed that he has plans to continue for another four years which is bad news for all his rivals.
"I've had a few injuries during the last couple of years so I have kind of seen this year as the first one in a five-year cycle," said Smyth.
"It never gets tiring coming to the Paralympic Games and crossing the line first.
"It's been incredible. It's my third consecutive Paralympic Games and fifth gold medal. To be honest, it's a little bit like a fairytale.
"I keep coming to the Championships wondering when this fairytale is going to end but thankfully it doesn't."
Smyth's victory was the first gold medal for Team Ireland in Rio and the second success for Northern Ireland after Seaforde's Bethany Firth swam to glory for Team GB on Thursday.
The big Liverpool supporter, who always tries to be an inspirational figure for youngsters, added: "For anyone to achieve anything in life, it's there to achieve. I'm no different or in any way more special than any other kid growing up in Ireland, but I worked hard at it, I committed and gave it everything I had."
The night before the final, Smyth had qualified from the heats as the fastest competitor in 10.76 and was satisfied at being able to step up his performance for the medal race.
He said: "The turnaround between heats and the final wasn't ideal. I felt I was able to get through the heats well, doing enough without killing myself.
"I was ready to go for the final and I knew I had to step it up another notch. I was able to do that.
"I knew my strength was the first half of the race and if I got ahead it would be hard to catch me."
With no other event to run in Rio, Smyth intends to enjoy some of the sights of the famous city and taking in some of the other sports.
No doubt he will be supporting his friend and Irish team-mate Michael McKillop tomorrow when he goes for gold in the 1,500m.
Yesterday though belonged to the sensational and unbeatable Smyth, the fastest Paralympian in history and truly a Northern Ireland sporting great.