Smyth doubles up in record style


PARALYMPIC GAMES:IT’S THE start that ends it. For anyone lining up against Jason Smyth at these Paralympics, their race has been over almost with a bang. He catapulted from the blocks in his T13 200m final here last night and sucked all mystery from the race inside his first 10 metres. By that stage, it was just a case of how far he would win.

In the end, it was plenty far. He ran a Paralympic world record of 21.05 seconds, his closest pursuer the Russian Alexey Labzin who crossed the line in 21.95. The first thing he was asked afterwards was if it was as easy as it looked.

“I don’t know,” he smiled. “I couldn’t see behind me to see what everybody else was up to. You worry about yourself and getting your race right and then you hope that everybody is behind you at the finish.”

Hope has never had to take a call here. Smyth has been completely dominant all the way through, from his 100m world record on his first night on the track to his third in four races last night. The upshot is that he gets to answer questions from more than just the Irish grunts, with one English inquisitor asking if he considered himself a Paralympian legend now.

“I’ve never thought about it like that,” said Smyth. “I still think there is more to come in Rio. Hopefully I can come back and do something similar. I don’t think I can call myself a Paralympic legend yet, there is a lot more to come.

“Without a doubt the Paralympics remain part of my targets. I get grants from the Irish Sports Council and I am funded as a Paralympic athlete and . . . it will always be my number one priority to come out here and defend my titles and do what I am capable of doing.

“There is absolutely no doubt that a major goal is to try and make Rio as an Olympian. I was close this year – far too close for my liking. There is more to come and it would be wrong of me to not have that as a goal.”

Earlier in the day, a door finally opened after a dozen years of knocking. Catherine O’Neill of New Ross, Co Wexford won silver in the F51/52/53 Discus competition and she did it with her first throw of the morning, as if she could wait no longer.

This was her third appearance at the Paralympics, having been to Sydney and Beijing without success before this. But now the 36-year-old, who came fourth in the club throw earlier in the week, has a silver medal to show for years of trying.

“I’ve waited for a medal,” she said. “I have been waiting for this for a long time. This is my third Paralympics and you cannot understand how much this means to me. I want to thank those who have supported me and stood by me.

“The throws have been going good all week. We’ve been training the last three days and the throws have been up around the 5.70m mark. I just wanted to keep calm and keep focused and keep them going out there nice and sweet. All you can do is take your throws and sit and relax.

“Don’t look around, just keep in the zone, keep drinking your water. It was baking out there and the noise is unbearable, especially when the British girl is throwing.”

It all means that the Irish athletics team finishes the Games with six medals – two golds each for Smyth and Michael McKillop, a silver for O’Neill and a bronze for Orla Barry.

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