Super Saturday for Irish athletes
Super Saturday lived up to its billing for the Irish Paralympian team yesterday in the Olympic Stadium and Aquatic Centre in London.
Golds for Jason Smyth, Mike McKillop and swimmer Darragh McDonald have ensured that Ireland’s medal haul for the London Games is already superior to Beijing after just three days of competition.
McKillop rounded up a brilliant evening for the Irish by winning the T37 (for cerebral palsy athletics) 800 metres in a world record time of 1.57.22 even while slowing down coming up to the line.
“Whenever people talked about Super Saturday, I don’t think they expected Super Saturday to be like this,” he said summarising a day which Ireland’s gold medallists proved to be far superior to the competition and broke two world records.
Smyth (26) lived up to his billing as the fastest Paralympian on the planet winning his T13 (for visually impaired athletes) 100 metres in a world record time of 10.46 seconds, shaving 0.08 seconds off the record he had set in the heats on Friday night.
Smyth was presented with an Irish flag which read: Jason – the Fastest Paralympian in the World by his coach at the end of his lap of honour in which he was raucously cheered by a predominantly British crowd and a sizable Irish contingent. He was presented with his medal by the Minister for Sport Michael Ring.
By his own admission winning the Paralympic title did not lessen the disappointment of missing out on qualification for the Olympics by 0.04 of a second.
Neverthless, he said there was “something sweeter or better about coming to a major event and actually succeeding.
“Some people already had the medal around your neck before you start, you can’t go up and beyond what is expected”.
Smyth and McKillop are roommates and best friends. McKillop joked that “everybody likes the dessert better than the main course”, a reference to Smyth’s earlier win.
“I wasn’t walking into that bedroom tonight without a gold medal around my neck,” he quipped. “I knew I was the best athlete in the field. It was just a matter of executing it.”
He was particularly emotional because it was the first time that his mother Catherine had watched him in a major final.
McKillop has the final of the 1,500 metres on Monday and will be a strong favourite to win the double.
Darragh McDonald won Ireland’s second gold medal of the Paralympic Games in the S5 400 metres freestyle final in the Aquatic Centre.
McDonald (18), who won silver in the same event in Beijing, led from start to finish and finished almost eight seconds ahead of his old rival, Sweden’s Anders Olsson (47), who is the Paralympic champion and world record holder and whom he has never previously beaten.