Jason Smyth is a visually impaired sprinter from Derry, is officially the ‘fastest Paralympian on the planet.’ In this month's blog, he discusses his final preparations and why he's skipping the opening ceremony.
Since the European Championships last month I’ve done a really solid training block - three hard weeks followed by an easier one. It was great to get back into that because my first race in the Paralympics is now less than a month away! After travelling and racing you just want to get back into that routine of quality training again and start racking up the numbers again in the gym and everything went very well.
Paralympics Ireland has given us three options of when we want to go to Brazil. Some of the team are going to a holding camp in Uberlandia beforehand but I’ve chosen to go straight to Rio with a group on August 31st, the same day the athletes’ village opens. Uberlandia meant more travelling – three flights – which I personally find a real killer so it’s better for me to go straight from London to Rio.
I was there last year for the ‘Fastest Paralympian’ race so I’m familiar with it and that’s how I did it then, just flew in a week beforehand. It may be a long trip but there is only a four-hour time difference, which is good.
I won’t go to the opening ceremony. I skipped it in London too. If you’re competing early it makes no sense because there’s so much standing and walking about involved. But I did it in Beijing in 2008 and it’s an incredible thing to do, especially for young athletes. If they’re not competing early I’ll encourage them to go.
My 100m heat is on the opening day and, hopefully, I’ll have the final a day later. I’ll have no problem filling the week beforehand, between training and getting out and about. It’s my third Games so I know what the routine will be. At the moment I could probably happily sit there from two weeks beforehand anyway. Since our baby Evie arrived, those days of doing nothing aren’t around anymore. We also just moved house last week, much closer to Belfast for training, so it’s been busy.
I haven’t even got into the Olympics so far because we have no internet connection yet. It’s like the old days! The T13 200m has been dropped for Rio, which means I’ll only be defending my 100m title. They can only fit a certain number of events on the programme. There seems to be lots of reasons why they’ve dropped some and, to me, they didn’t really add up, but there’s nothing you can do about it really and it might change again in the future. The guy who was second to me at last year’s World Championships was actually Brazilian. He’s fairly new on the scene so I wouldn’t be surprised if he kicks on a bit, especially as he has a ‘home’ Games.
I’m hoping to fit in two races, to sharpen up, before I leave; one in Lee Valley in London in mid-August, and another, either in Belfast or London, on August 27th. One of the difficulties in Para Athletics is that we don’t have a Grand Prix circuit and you don’t know what your opponents are doing. Everyone comes into the Paralympics sort of under the radar and you don’t get any of idea where people are at until the heats. The one good thing about that is that you actually don’t worry about what anyone else is up to and focus on yourself.
It’s the same with all of these doping stories, and the fact that the whole Russian team has been thrown out of the Paralympics. I’m always surprised when I hear about doping in our sport because there aren’t the same rewards in it as there is in other sports. You can win a Paralympic gold medal and your life doesn’t change. You’ll not become wealthy. To me, the bigger the reward, the more likely it is you’ll find people willing to take risks or cheat. A lot of times the media gets so caught up in these negative stories.
For me the focus in Ireland should be about the Irish team, about the path of the athletes, their potential, their success. It’s irrelevant what anyone else does and it really takes the focus off our achievements.
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 aims to retain his 100m title at the Rio Paralympics
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. He missed the A qualification standard for the 2012 London Olympics by just four hundredths of a second and has set himself the same ‘double’ target for Rio.
Jason is an Allianz sports and brand ambassador and will be writing a monthly blog in the build-up to the 2016 Paralympic Games. Allianz is an official partner to Paralympics Ireland and global partner to the International Paralympics Committee (IPC).
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