Jason Smyth (28), a visually impaired sprinter from Derry, is officially the ‘fastest Paralympian on the planet.’ He won T13 gold at both 100m & 200m in the 2008 Beijing and 2012 Paralympics and won his fifth gold by retaining his T13 100m title at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janiero in September. His 100m personal best (10:22) is the second fastest ever by an Irishman and he is also one of only 10 Irish men to break 21 seconds for 200m.
Jason is an Allianz sports and brand ambassador and has been writing a monthly blog throughout the build-up and aftermath of the 2016 Paralympic Games. Allianz is an official partner to Paralympics Ireland and global partner to the International Paralympics Committee (IPC).
“FOR me the best thing after the Paralympics was getting back to my family. When you’re away for so long, especially when you have a little one, it’s really nice to get back to reality again. My little girl Evie took a little time to get comfortable with me initially. I was away for three weeks so, for a few days, she’d only go to my wife Elise but, no fear, she’s back to normal now. I have somehow managed to keep the medal away from her so far – that’s what all those toys are for!
I have continued training. My event was very early in the Paralympic schedule and I actually kept training afterwards out in Rio. In the past I did nothing for a while after but, for a few reasons, I wanted to keep ticking over this time. Firstly we’re going on holidays - a Mediterranean cruise – later this month when I won’t be doing anything for a week to 10 days so I wanted to prepare for that.
We’ve never been to Venice and always wanted to go, so we’re starting from there and the trip will also take in places like Croatia. It will just be the three of us and I’m really looking forward to switching off completely. As much as I’ve continued to train there’s also a part of you that needs to relax completely.
I’m very happy that I won my third T13 100m gold in Rio. Each Paralympic Games is completely different and, if I’m honest, winning this year was more a relief. Things weren’t ideal, I’ve moved around a lot since 2012 and not had the consistency and times I was hoping for, but we’re back based in Belfast now and I don’t intend moving again until I’m done! Usually you get to the end of the year and you can take your foot off the gas, but I just feel, time-wise, that I’ve gone backwards and I really need to go forward again now.
So, while Rio was my focus, in the back of my mind, it was also building for next year and onwards to Tokyo 2020. I really feel I have to push on because the gap behind me is closing. That’s not just me. The standard generally in Rio moved on in all events, not just athletics. You look at the amount of money Britain is throwing into Paralympic sport and see their results. The performances are rocketing so, if Ireland wants to stay on that playing field, we need to keep investing in it too.
I’m already really excited about the 2017 IPC World Championships in London next July, where I’ll be back racing the 200m again also, which I really enjoy. We’re going back to the Olympic Stadium, like London 2012, and it should be really special. I really believe that, for the first time, the IPC World Championships could be bigger than the Paralympic Games and that’s an incredible step forward for Paralympic sport. My family have already bought their tickets - only £9 for adults and £3 for children – and this really is a very special opportunity that isn’t going to come our way again, either as athletes or supporters. My other favourite thing since Rio was the homecoming in my home village of Eglington. They always organise one and I really enjoy it.
It wasn’t a great day weather-wise but there still a good turnout, and what I love about those things is that they’re geared towards the kids, which is where I feel I can make the most impact. We ran from the school to the community centre, right through the village. The kids all got to ask me questions and see the medal and I signed posters for them. Kids are the people of tomorrow and I feel they’re the ones you can make the biggest difference with. In their lives you want them to think ‘why can’t I do that?’ and you feel you can contribute to that.
The following week I visited my two old schools and that’s also very special. Eglington Primary School is where I won my very first race and Limavady Grammar School is where I first got involved in athletics, so they mean a lot to me. I was absolutely no different from anyone else in those two schools, so hopefully what I’ve done can encourage today’s pupils in whatever they want to achieve in life; to think ‘why not?’ I have always lived by the motto ‘Anything is Possible’. I really believe it is and I believe it is the exact same for everybody. You just have to believe!”
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