Jason Smyth (28), a visually impaired sprinter from Derry, is officially the ‘fastest Paralympian on the planet.’ He will be writing a monthly blog in the build-up to the 2016 Paralympic Games.
SINCE last month I have been training, raced twice, moved back to Derry after two and a half years in London and had a family wedding when my sister got married in Donegal.
We came straight back here from a training camp in Florida. We had been living in a one-bedroom place in Tottenham and, for us, it wasn’t the place to be bringing up a kid, but, a huge part too, was also the cost. London is crazy expensive.
The move probably isn’t ideal timing but you’ve got to be willing to make the sacrifices.
I wanted to go to the States for a training block of 7-8 weeks to get in really good quality racing and training.
We just couldn’t afford to do that and keep the place in London. Being based at home is still good because I can train locally here but also pop back and forth to my coach in London, and to races in Europe.
We’re back living with my parents but looking to rent our own place. Before I left Florida I ran 10:39 seconds. It was my fastest time in three years and a step forward, but I’d say the first 40 metres of my race is still not where I would like it to be.
I ran in Germany about 10 days after I came back which wasn’t as good, but I don’t ever tend to run well so close to travelling. Most of the time you pay for yourself and do all the organisation, to go to these meets.
I ring organisers well in advance looking to get in, and getting into races is very much influenced by how well you’re running at the time.
The organisers usually give you a night or two accommodation but you can be sharing with a complete stranger and this time I shared with an Israeli steeplechaser I’d never met before. You’re usually put in twin rooms but initially, when he was allocated a room, he went in to find this big man laying asleep across a double bed!
He moved to share with me then but actually raced the day before me and left at 4:30am Sunday morning, before I’d even raced. Stuff like that can interrupt an athlete’s’ preparations.
What people might not also understand is that I can’t travel by myself. If I walk out in an airport and there’s one of those greeting signs saying ‘Jason Smyth’ I would never be able to see that.
When we’re in a hotel and they put the ‘start-lists’ and transport times up on noticeboards I can’t see those and I also can’t see those boarding screens in airports. If I know where I’m landing pretty well – Dublin, Belfast or Derry - I’ll get the special assistance that airports offer.
But, if I’m abroad, especially somewhere they don’t speak English, I really need to travel with someone. That all increases the costs, especially if you’re booking last-minute flights.
Whenever possible I’ll travel with other athletes. I went to Germany with Amy Foster as she was also racing there. But a lot of things, and my summer racing plans, are probably going to be determined by just how well I run in Geneva.
The one thing I’ve realised now is that when you have any injuries or issues, it is amazing how quickly you lose it but just how slow it is to come back. You think ‘ah I can jump back to where I was’ but actually you can’t. You just have to chip away at it, bit by bit."
Jason Smyth 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). 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 (Sept 7-18, 2016). He will be providing a regular blog for Rio Paralympcs 2016. 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.
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