Smyth is the Paralympic Champion


JASON Smyth cemented his place as the greatest sprinter in the annals of Paralympic sport by winning his sixth gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium in his most dramatic victory yet. The 34-year-old Derry superstar just held off Algeria’s Skander Djamil Athmani on the dip to clinch his most memorable T13 100m victory ever, chesting the line at 10:53 seconds to the African’s 10:54. The three-time defending champion said the tiny victory margin, and a build-up that was badly disrupted by injury, made it one of his sweetest titles ever and confessed he did not know who had won.

“At the end of the race I tightened up a little. I could feel him right there and I wasn’t sure if it was me crossed first or someone else.  I had to go over and ask ‘did I win’ when someone threw me the flag. “This means more to me because of how close it was and the year I’ve had. In the heats he looked smoother than me. I was not the favourite tonight so yes, to be in my fourth Paralympic Games, in my 17th year, and still unbeaten, I don’t even know what to say. All I know is it’s getting harder and harder to maintain that but that’s the challenge of sport. You’ve got to be on your A game constantly.

“I’m absolutely delighted. Most people probably weren’t aware of where the standard of competition has gone in the sprints. The Algerian had actually run quicker than me this year and I’ve had a really tough year of injuries that I hadn’t spoken of.

“Nine months ago I wasn’t even sure if this was me done. Three months ago I was wondering if I could make it to the Games and be in the shape I needed. I only raced twice this season due to injuries but we got things right when we needed and I’m very grateful for the great team around me, the physio, S&C and coaches.”

Smyth’s time was his fastest since winning the 2019 World Championships and the relatively unknown 29-year-old runner-up, who had broken the African record with 10:59 in his heat, lowered it again to almost cause one of the biggest shocks of the Games. The bronze medallist, 20-year-old Colombian Jean Carlos Mina Aponza, also set a continental record of 10:64 to underline the stellar quality of the field.

And after winning his sixth Paralympic title and 14th global crown the Derry flier did not rule out staying on for Paris 2024. “When you’re champion there’s a pressure and expectation people don’t know about. You’re there to be shot down all the time and I have everything to lose and nothing to gain. As time goes on there’s faster people coming and I’m not getting younger either. I’d still like to go to Paris but I’ll take the next few weeks and see where I am and where I am going forward with family and all the people who support me.”

Elsewhere young Killarney T47 high jumper Jordan Lee finished ninth on his Paralympic debut, clearing 1.74m with his opening jump but then failing at 1:79m in a competition won by defending T47 high and long jump champion Roderick Townsend (USA) in a new world record of 2.15m, with the minor medallists both clearing 2:06m.

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