Multi-sprint sprint champion Jason Smyth last night added another title to his huge Paralympic collection when he took gold with ease over 200 metres at the World Para Athletics European Championships in Berlin.
His winning time of 21.44 secs breaks his own European record of 21.84 secs set in Espoo, Finland 13 years ago!
Both Smyth’s victory and time come as no surprise as the 31-year-old Ebrington man has been in top form in recent weeks both in the 100 and 200 metres.
The race took place in warm humid conditions which were ideal for sprinting and it was clear from the gun that Smyth was determined to retain his record of never having lost a Paralympic race.
He quickly closed the gap on chief rival Mateusz Michalski of Poland who was in the adjacent outside lane and going into the home straight he took control and eased away.
Jason slowed marginally in the last 20 metres but he still had almost a half second advantage on Michalski who was timed at a season’s best of 21.87 secs. Bronze went to Phillip Handler of Switzerland in 23.45 secs.
Smyth’s time is his fastest since the World Championships in London a year ago when Michalski again had to settle for silver.
The win augurs well for later in the week when Smyth will line up in the 100 metres.
Despite his incredible success and the holder of two sprint World records Smyth does not take victory for granted and is always attempting to improve.
“I’ve seen the sport change a lot. It’s still very important to do well in major Championships. I think to be honest that that I can run faster in the next two years. This year a lot of my strength and foundation work has come back,” he has said.
The father of two has also commented on what he sees as insufficient recognition of the sport.
“If I had achieved what I have but in another sport I wouldn’t have to look at what job I need to do the minute I finish the sport.”
Today’s competition in Berlin will involve Eve Walsh-Dann from Bangor who races over 200 metres and Sally Brown, formerly from Limavady, who competes in the 400 metres.
Sixteen-year-old North Down schoolgirl Eve has already defied her tender years by making a major impact in the T36 sprint category for athletes with mild cerebral palsy. She took double gold in the 100 and 200 metres at last year’s European Junior Para Championships in Switzerland.
Walsh-Dann has also proved this season that she is again in top form. In June, at the Northern Ireland Senior Championships in Belfast she set a British record of 14.72 seconds in the 100 metres. Two weeks later, in Newham, she captured another British record over 200 metres with a time of 31.34 secs.
This latest achievement should give her a real opportunity to medal in today’s final and give her confidence for the 100 metres later in the week .
There are also high hopes for 23-year-old Brown who races over 400 metres in the T47 category for athletes with a limb deficiency.
Sally has been plagued with serious injury since her last major appearance in the London Paralympics in 2012, suffering a series of fractures which she eventually put down to a poor running technique.
The Loughborough College student, whose partner is multi- Paralympic star Jonnie Peacock, has an ambitious programme this week which takes in the 100, 200 and 400 metres.
Brown has prepared for today’s 400 metres final by racing the distance on four occasions this season, the fastest being 65.81 secs. She is confident that her new running style will see her through a testing week.