McKillop and Smyth denied chance to defend titles

Double gold medallists Michael McKillop and Jason Smyth have been denied the opportunity to defend their Paralympic titles in Rio.

McKillop and Smyth denied chance to defend titles

The IPC announced yesterday that the T13 200m, in which Smyth won gold at the last two Paralympic Games, has been dropped from the 2016 programme.

Similarly, McKillop’s bid to complete the hat-trick of gold medals in the T37 800m has been ended following the removal of the event.

The 23-year old will have to be content with running only in the 1,500m, while Smyth will chase a third consecutive victory in the 100m, an event he also hopes to secure Olympic qualification for.

The news comes a week after both athletes achieved double gold at the IPC World Championships in Lyon.

McKillop wrote on Twitter: “Unfortunately I will not have the opportunity to retain my 800m title in Rio. I am deeply disappointed with this outcome.”

CEO of Paralympics Ireland Liam Harbison expressed frustration with the inconsistency of the IPC track and field schedule.

“It is very disappointing,” he said. “You look at London where we had six medals on the track, four gold, one silver and one bronze and with the strike of a pen two gold medals are gone.

“In previous Paralympic Games, the IPC might have only released the programme a year before. Athletes find their event is gone and there is no time to change their training programme.”

Harbison revealed Paralympics Ireland would contest the decision and there is a chance both the T13 200m and T37 800m could be reinstated.

“It would seem when a major sports organisation tends to make a major event change it tends not to benefit the smaller nations. It is something we will have to look at, but unfortunately we don’t have huge influence on the world stage.

“It would appear there is a small element of review that can take place after the World Championships in 2015. There may still be some movement on it and we will be monitoring that.

“Of the new events that were announced yesterday each will have to meet an eligibility criteria to make them viable. If ultimately there isn’t enough entries, that event is then deleted from the programme.

“If some events are deemed not viable after the World Championships in 2015, they’ll then go back to the culled events to fill the gaps.”

There was good news for Orla Barry with the announcement that the F57/58 discus has been split into two separate events.

The Cork thrower secured silver at the World Championships last week, but is ranked number one in the world in the F57 category.

“The IPC want to make sure at every classification to have a broader programme of athletics events,” explained Harbison. “You look at London, Beijing and Athens, there has been a heavy focus on the sprints. There have been some categories where there haven’t been middle distance or long distance events.

“In the field events where they have combined classes and you have two or three classes competing against each other on a points based system, they are trying to strip that away.

“To make room for some of these new classes, to provide more events for women and to provide more events for athletes who tend to have higher support needs they have obviously had to cull some events from the men’s programme.”

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