Paralympics: Tokyo gold is “sweetest of all” for Jason Smyth

Sprint star Jason Smyth said his latest gold medal is the most memorable of his 16-year unbeaten Paralympic career.

Monday, 30th August 2021, 2:01 pm
Gold medalist Jason Smyth of Team Ireland celebrates on the podium of Men's 100m - T13 Final on day 5 of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 29, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

Smyth from Eglinton, Co Londonderry, took his gold medal haul to six with victory by the closest of margins on Sunday in the T13100m final in Tokyo.

The 34-year-old visually-impaired athlete beat Algeria’s Skander Djamil Athmani by just one-hundredth of a second to win.

“This one has been more memorable, it’s definitely a sweeter moment crossing the line first,” he said.

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“I guess it’s a combination of things,” he told BBC Radio Foyle.

“It’s been a tough year around injuries, for how competitive the event was, how close it was, really just a combination of everything made it just a little more sweeter this time.”

The world’s fastest Paralympian is now unbeaten across four Paralympic Games, winning 100m gold in Beijing, London, Rio and now Tokyo.

Smyth, who is legally blind, with his central vision being affected by the retinal condition, Stargardt’s disease, also has two gold medals at the now discontinued 200m.

Pushed hard over the closing stages of Sunday’s race Smyth said he crossed the line unsure of victory.

“I wasn’t 100 per cent sure,” he said.

“I knew going into the race I had to get out and put the guys under pressure.

“That’s what I did for half, or just over half of the race, that’s when the guys started coming back, I could sense the Algerian right beside me, I thought I was slightly ahead of him but then he started celebrating.

“I had to ask one of my Irish teammates was it me or was it him? It was too close for comfort,” he added.

The margin of victory was too close too for Elise Smyth, the sprinter’s wife who was watching at home with Jason’s parents.

She said:“It was too dramatic for my taste. Normally Jason is pretty well far in front and we know he is going to win about half way through the race.

“Yesterday we all sort of held our breath until they officially announced it was him. There was quite the uproar in the house,” she said.

Elise added that she is “insanely proud” of her husband.

“He works so hard, it’s not like he just shows up.

“The standard has really increased, there’s a lot of faster guys now than when he first started so he has to put in a lot of time and effort - to see it pay off, you can’t even describe the amount of pride you have”.

The sprinter is due back home on Thursday, something he is “very much looking forward to”.

“I haven’t seen my wife and daughters in quite some time, I’m looking forward to being normal for a few weeks,” he said.

As for Paris in three years, he added: “I’ll reflect, chat with my wife and family and those around me.”