Determined Smyth digs deep once again to extend his remarkable golden run

Derry native pips his Algerian rival by 0.01 of a second to retain his sprint crown

34-year old Derry native Jason Smyth has won his sixth Paralympic gold medal after edging the T13 100m final in Tokyo. Smyth claimed victory in 10.53 seconds, his fastest time of the season. Video: Paralympic Games / Youtube

 

Jason Smyth’s sixth Paralympic gold medal in the T13 100m final in Tokyo elongated a remarkable sequence of victories that dates back to the 2008 final in Beijing, thereby retaining his status as “the Fastest Paralympian on the Planet”.

The 34-year-old Derry native beat Algeria’s Skander Djamil Athmani, the fastest qualifier for the final by the width of a singlet, or 0.01 seconds in elapsed time, in claiming a fourth consecutive T13 100 metres Paralympics title.

It was the manner of his win that exemplified Smyth’s pedigree in winning gold medals; 21 in total in never losing a race in European, Worlds or Paralympics, dating back to 2005.

The Algerian ran 10.59 in winning his heat, Smyth a decelerating 10.74 but the latter said in the aftermath that heats were just a conduit to the final and that the real pressure came with being able to run free when the gold medal was up for grabs. He pointed out that he’d done it numerous times unlike Athmani running in a first ever Paralympics.

Smyth ratcheted up the pressure from the get-go, his blistering start allowed him to eke out a little daylight that immediately applied pressure and although his tied up a little as Athmani closed with every stride, the line materialised in the nick of time as the Derry sprinter dipped for glory.

An emotional Smyth admitted: “[I’m] delighted, [it was] obviously an extremely close race. “I wasn’t 100 per cent sure [I’d won]. I thought I was slightly ahead but it was so close. Going into the final, speaking to my coach, this is the stage I compete on; I have been here and done it. The Algerian, this is his first time on this stage, so it was about me trying to put him under pressure.

“I certainly felt like I did that at the start of the race, I tightened up a bit at the end. All I can say is that I was the first person across that line.”

Smyth explained how his preparation for the Games was not only compromised by the pandemic but also by injury.

“If I reflect on this year, I had one of the toughest years I have had with injuries. Nine months ago I was wondering, is this me done? Three months ago I was wondering if I would be at the Games and be able to be at this level. We got things right and they came together right at the right time.

“As I keep saying to everybody, you see me as the athlete standing out there competing but it is actually the people around you, the team that makes what just happened; without them I wouldn’t be standing here.

“And those people know who they are, from track coaches to physio to S&C; they put in a huge amount of work. And even at home, my wife [Elise] and two daughters [Lottie and Evie] whom I haven’t seen since July 10th. A huge amount of work and sacrifice goes in by some many people and I was just very grateful for everything they did that allowed me to get here and cross that line first.”

So still the fastest Paralympian on the planet?

He smiled: “I don’t get too caught up by titles, statements and records because records are there to be beaten. Tonight it was me but that Algerian was right there and on another night it could be him.

Finish seventh

“Forget about all that [hoopla], focus on getting me right, getting my race right and executing that.”

And he did so, brilliantly.

Meanwhile 21-year-old Britney Arendse based in Mullagh in Cavan produced three personal bests in the power-lifting event, the last of which was 107kgs to finish seventh in the final.

Kerrie Leonard produced a fine performance in the Round of 16, head-to-head contest, to defeat her Indian opponent Jyoti Jyoti 141-137 and advance to the last eight where she will face the Russian Paralympic Committee’s Stepanida Artakhinova.

She said: “It feels amazing and I feel vindicated for saying that I prefer the matchplay. I’m buzzing.”

Limerick teenager Róisín Ní Ríain finished seventh in the S13 50m Freestyle but there is no rest as she will compete in one of her favoured events – she has two to go – the 200m Individual Medley today.

Jordan Lee, the 21-year-old Killarney T47 high jumper finished ninth on his Paralympic debut, clearing 1.74m with his opening jump but then failing at 1:79m in a competition won by defending T47 high and long jump champion Roderick Townsend (USA) in a new world record of 2.15m, with the minor medallists both clearing 2:06m.

Lee said: “Obviously I’m quite disappointed with my performance. I just didn’t have the bounce in my legs. I’ve only been in the sport for the last three years and to be able to get to the Paralympic Games with three years’ work is an achievement already but I hope to reach my prime in future Games at Paris and Los Angeles.”

The Irish Equestrian team brought their Paralympic Games to a close in the Team event. Tamsin Addison scored 66.232 in the Grade V section to give the team a total score of 207.176 after Michael Murphy and Kate Kerr Horan’s strong showing the day before. It was good enough to finish 12th.

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