I haven’t put it all together yet in one race from start to finish. I need to do that if I’m going to make the qualifying standard, writes JASON SMYTH
TIME IS getting short now. I’m back in Ireland after another winter in Florida and I have only a few weeks left to run the 10.18 seconds A Standard time for the 100m that would qualify me for the London Olympics. Really, what you’re talking about there is another two competitions. The European Championships in Helsinki, in which I will have at least two to three rounds to try and run the standard. And then the Irish Championships, where I’ll be looking at probably another two races. So I would say I have another four or five races to hit the A Standard.
I grew up with Stargardt’s Disease, a genetic disorder that has left me with around 10 per cent of normal vision and I’m trying to become the first man to compete in the Olympics and Paralympics in the same year. I’ve been really happy with all the training I’ve done to get to this point.
Honestly though, I was hoping to be coming back from the States with the time already done. I had a few runs in the US where the conditions are better and I was running in higher-quality fields. I’ve still got another few opportunities so I’m still optimistic. But ideally I would have it by this stage.
The training has gone well. In the gym, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and on the track I’m better than I’ve ever been. The funny thing is I know I’m in the shape to do it. But doing it and getting it together and finding the right conditions for it, that’s the hard part.
I’ve tried it four times now this season. The first two races, the conditions were ideal. But always with your first couple of races, you’ll have that bit of rustiness. The problem is that I’ve had little things go wrong with each race and I haven’t put it all together in one race from start to finish. I need to do that because we’re talking about hundredths of a second. A tiny mistake here or there causes you a tenth of a second.
My first two races, it was the back end of my races that cost me. When you have people around you in a race, the temptation is to try that bit harder. It can cause you to tighten up a little bit and instead of keeping relaxed and maintaining your ideal body shape, you can find yourself slightly leaning backwards. Nobody sitting in the stand would be able to see it with the naked eye but that right there will make the difference between going to the Olympics and not.
My third race, I came out of my drive phase too early. Ideally, you want to be driving out of the blocks for the first 30 metres and then transition but I did it too quickly and it cost me. In the fourth race, I just didn’t start well.
So it’s been little things in each race.
And when you’re in and around my level, it’s those little things that make all the difference.
I’m not a 9.9 second guy who can recover from a bad start and still hit the time. The qualifying standard is in and around where my best is.
People might say it’s all been for nothing if I don’t make it but I wouldn’t agree. I made the move to the States, I trained with the best athletes in the world, I gave myself the best opportunity possible to make to Olympics. I suppose you can say that it’s three years of aiming for something and maybe it will feel like a lot of effort for small enough return if I don’t make it. But I still have to take heart from the fact that I did it. I made the decision to go and give it everything.
If it doesn’t come off, I will have to look at things. I’ll have to contemplate what’s worth continuing with. You can’t keep running around putting your heart and soul into something if you’re not going to get something out of it in the end.
No matter what happens, I still have to give everything to my bread and butter. I need to come away from the Paralympics having retained my gold medals from Beijing. That’s my bread and butter, that’s how I’m funded.
It’s what I’m known for and it’s what has made me a full-time athlete. Whether I make it to the Olympics or not, the fortnight afterwards is going to be massive for me.
But I desperately want to get to the Olympics. I’ve made it hard for myself because I’ll be running in tougher conditions in Helsinki and at home.
But I can’t worry about that now.
I have four or five chances left and nothing matters outside of those races for me just now.
This column appeared first in the weekend’s Irish Times sports pages