Smyth seals semi-final place

Smyth seals semi-final place

Derry sprinter Jason Smyth made history on the Olympic Stadium track in Barcelona tonight by becoming the first Paralympian to compete at a European Athletics Championships.

But, as he has done throughout his promising career, Smyth went one better and defied the odds by qualifying for the semi-finals of the 100 metres.

The 23-year-old, who is partially-sighted, finished fourth in a top class heat which contained France's Christophe Lemaitre and British hopeful Mark Lewis Francis.

Smyth overcame a poor draw in lane eight to finish strongly in 10.43 seconds, claiming the fourth and final automatic qualifying spot in his heat. Lemaitre won in a time of 10.19.

The double Paralympic champion ranked as the thirteenth fastest of the 24 qualifiers for Wednesday evening's three semi-finals.

Smyth will have to smash his personal best of 10.32, which was set just last month, to stand a chance of making the final.

Coached by Strabane's Stephen Maguire, he has benefited from a training stint with former World champion Tyson Gay in Florida earlier in the season.

Smyth contracted Stargardt's disease when he was just eight, a hereditary degenerative visual impairment that affects his central vision.

A much-loved member of the Irish team, he is eager to complete a remarkable feat by competing in both the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012.

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