JASON SMYTH may have set three records in Barcelona last evening when he became the first Paralympic athlete to compete at the European Championships, becoming the first Irishman to make the semi-finals of the 100m and it is unlikely any other athlete could have spent so much time in the mixed zone doing media interviews.
The 23-year-old Derryman, who is partially sighted, won gold medals in the 100m and 200m at the Paralympic Games in Beijing and last evening he came off a spectacular start to finish fourth in his heat and gain automatic qualification for this evening’s semi-finals, with the final to follow on the same programme.
“Before we came out here we wanted to get to the semi-final and now, hopefully, we can run a bit quicker tomorrow and see where that gets me,” he said.
Ranked fifth of the seven and coming off prolonged injury, his performance was all the more laudable.
“I am really glad we got here,” Smyth said. “A lot of credit has to go to Stephen (Maguire), my coach, and the guys at the Sports Institute; we just managed to get through the last couple of weeks and get to the starting line.
“It is completely different to the Paralympics. In the Paralympics you are there and you are No 1 and you are expected to win. Here the competition is a lot harder. You get away with very little. If you slip up at all, the quality of these guys will let you know about it. You have to be on top of your game.
“I know there is a very outside chance that I’ll make the final but you never know what might happen tomorrow. All it takes is for a few people to run bad and you just never know where you are. If I come and step up a level again — performance-wise and time-wise — I’ll go home happy.”
He believes he belongs in this type of company and is not overawed in any way by the experience.
“This year, basing ourselves out of Florida, training with world-class athletes you believe you should be here competing with those guys. When you are training with such good athletes, it’s not so scary lining up against somebody like Lamaitre who has run 9.9. When you are training with those guys, you know what it’s like.”
Rose-Anne Galligan is another Irish athlete who stepped up to a new level last night when she shot up the Irish ranking list with a new pb of 2:01.76 in the semi-finals of the 800m, bettering her old mark of 2:02.39 set in Manchester earlier this year.
It did not get her through to the final but brought her closer to the two-minute barrier and taught her more about 800m running than she has ever learned before.
“Unless people fell or something like that, I knew I was never going to get into the final,” she said. “The plan was to go out, run my race, see how fast I could go and now I’ve come out with a pb.
“The first 300m were crazy.
“I knew they would go out like hell so I just hung back and I went through at my perfect pace and worked my way back up to them.
“I know I can go faster. I learned a lot about tactics out there. It is my first major outdoor and they were all experienced.”
Meanwhile Mo Farah last night became the first British man to win the European 10,000m. Farah turned in a display of supreme confidence, as he took gold in 28 minutes 24.99 seconds ahead of team-mate Chris Thompson. Italy’s Daniele Meucci was third.
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