Jason Smyth was in a class of his own as he wowed the 80,000 spectators in the Olympic Stadium, storming to victory in the T13 200m last night and successfully defending both sprint titles he won in Beijing four years ago.
After blowing away the opposition and breaking his own world record, resetting the figures at 21.05 seconds and winning by the massive margin of 0.90 of a second he modestly refused to accept that he’s now a Paralympic legend.
“To be honest I’ve never really thought about it like that. I don’t know, I still think there’s more to come looking on to Rio and hopefully I can come back and do something similar so no, I don’t think I would call myself a Paralympic legend yet, there’s hopefully much more to come from Jason Smyth,” he said.
It’s exactly the same incredible feat Usain Bolt achieved last month in the Olympics, although the Derry sprinter, who confirmed his place as the fastest Paralympian on the planet, set two world records in the process, something the Jamaican didn’t manage to do.
“To be fair to the people the support for me has been fantastic and it’s something I’ll never forget. It is a home Games and its been a pleasure to be here competing but to be put in the same sentence as Usain Bolt is an honour. He’s the greatest athlete we’ve ever seen in athletics and possibly the greatest sportsman in the world at the moment and to be in any way compared to that can only be an honour.”
Smyth tried valiantly this year to qualify for the Olympics as well coming up four-hundredths short so the next four years are already being planned out.
“I’m funded as a Paralympic athlete and what I achieve in Paralympic sport in hugely important and that will always be my number one priority but there’s absolutely no doubt that a major goal will be to try and reach Rio and the Olympics. I was so close this year, far too close for my liking, so as I say I think there’s more to come and I think it would be wrong of me not to have that as a goal. As an athlete I want to reach my potential and wherever that is I’m going to strive to do that.”
The first issue Smyth will have to address is a new coach. Last night’s victory was a fitting end to his partnership with Stephen Maguire who has guided him for the past nine years.
“I haven’t thought about it too much to be honest because I didn’t want it to be a distraction. I think now when I sit down and I realize how much things are going to change I think Stephen, I probably can’t credit him enough. He’s been there from day one and he’s got me to where I am now. I’ve retained my titles, I almost made the Olympics and he has sacrificed an awful lot. He got me the best opportunity to train out in Florida and he’s put his life on hold a little bit and his family have to take a lot of credit as well for the sacrifice and that can’t have been easy for them. It will be sad because we’ve been through a lot but we will stay in contact.”
One of his options may be to return to the United States where former world champion Tyson Gay has been a mentor to him over the past three years.
“Tyson has sent me a few messages on Twitter congratulating me and saying “oh, you must bring me round to see that gold’ and to be fair to Tyson he has been fantastic to me, he’s given me a lot of advice and support, just things he thinks will help me improve and I can’t credit him enough because he’s taken me under his wing and I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve that.”
Smyth’s second gold means he will share the bragging rights with his room mate Michael McKillop who won the middle distance double earlier in the week and along with the success of swimmer Bethany Firth it means five gold medals for Northern Ireland athletes, a phenomenal achievement.