Jason Smyth is double gold Paralympic champion
Contributed By Debbie Twigger
Irish sprinter, Jason Smyth, won double gold medals at the 100 and 200 metres T 13 at the London 2012 Paralympics and is officially 'the fastest paralympian on the earth'. He set new world records in each of the races and defended his titles from Beijing. Jason, from Eglington, County Derry, Northern Ireland, won two gold Paralympic medals for Ireland at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, setting world records at the Men's 100 metres T13 and the Men's 200 metres T13, which caused some Irish media to compare his feat at the time to that of Usain Bolt.
Jason is visually impaired with only 10% of average eyesight, diagnosed when Jason was 8 years old with an eye condition called Stargardts Disease which affects his central vision. Despite achieving world records at sprinting, Jason only started running at the age of 16 after being spotted by an athletics coach at school. He initially entered able-bodied championships and won the Irish Schools Championships for 3 consecutive years before being entered for Paralympic sports and setting world records in the European and World Paralympic Championships.
Becoming the first Paralympic athlete to qualify and complete in the able-bodied European Championships in 2010, and making it to the semi-final in the 100 metre race, spurred Jason on to qualify and race in the World Championships in 2011.
In a conversation with Jason to see how he was preparing to defend his title at the Paralympics in London we found out more of his amazing journey.
“Well I suppose there has been a long journey with highs and lows when I look back from 9 years ago when I started until now and how much I have achieved. I suppose more recently I have tried to give myself the best opportunity to improve and get closer to reaching my potential which involved me basing myself in the USA 7 or 8 months of the year.”
Jason moved to America to train at the National Training Centre in Clermont, Florida with top athletes, including Tyson Gay, one of the elite sprinters in the USA Olympic team and a gold medal winner at the London 2012 Olympics. Regarding the experience Jason says, “I had to make a lot of sacrifices financially, away from family and friends and I have lived a lifestyle which seemed to only really involve eating sleeping and training, but hard work and sacrifices are needed to be the best you can be.”
Jason attends Church in Northern Ireland where there are eleven wards and branches. He talked about how his faith has helped him along the way and motivated him in the tough times.
“I would say my faith is probably the biggest thing that motivates me. I know I have been given a talent, a talent in which I have to increase to the maximum but one in which I can do much good throughout the world in being an example and making people more aware of the gospel.
”I never had an opportunity to serve a mission because of my eyesight but I firmly believe my mission is in my career as I go throughout the world where people learn of me and my beliefs.“
”Also comes the tougher times like this year I missed out in competing at the Olympics by 0.04 seconds and being the first visually impaired athlete to do so but if there is one thing I have learned it is things happen for a reason but it always takes time to find out why. I look at 2 years ago when I missed out in competing at the Commonwealth Games because of injury but as a result of not being there I went to the USA and to cut a long story short I met my fiancée.“
Jason recently met his fiancée in America through an uncle who lives in Utah. He will marry Elise Jordan from Orem, Utah in the Salt Lake Temple. He comments, ”I am getting married in December in the Temple so I want to make the most of my career to be able to best provide for my soon to be wife and eventually family.“
Remarkable success has been achieved by Jason in such a short time, breaking world records at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and becoming a Paralympic champion. He comments about this experience.
”The opportunity I had in Beijing to win 2 golds, to represent my country and the feeling of hard work paying off is very hard to describe but totally worth it. I have had the opportunity to travel many places throughout the world, see many cultures and meet all walks of life.“
Prior to his races Jason said, ”I am really looking forward to the Paralympic Games, this is the biggest competition, this is what you put in all the hours of hard work and sacrifices for to have the opportunity to be on the big stage and hopefully succeed. Obviously going in as the champion from Beijing there is only one thing in my mind which is to retain my titles. I hope I can achieve that, I know training has been going really well this year and especially in the past few weeks running up to the Games so I am optimistic and keeping positive.“
Read more about Jason at http://www.jason-smyth.com