Jason Smyth cemented his reputation as Ireland’s best-ever sprinter after sealing a record-equalling sixth visually-impaired Paralympic gold medal on Sunday morning.
he Derry man ran a time of 10.53 to hold off Algerian Djamil Skander Athmani (10.54) by the slimmest of margins and win a fourth successive T13 100m gold, adding to his 200m medals from the Beijing and London games.
The 34-year-old has never been beaten at the Paralympic Games and, with just three years until Paris 2024, he may fancy a tilt at taking the record outright.
Smyth, who competes in the T13 category for partially-sighted athletes, set the male 100m record with a time of 10.46 and 200m with 21.05 at the London games in 2012.
It may be a long time before the latter record is broken after the 200m category was discontinued ahead of the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
He’s run faster still in open events, clocking a time of 10.38 at a qualifying race for the 2012 Olympics, a heartbreaking 0.01 seconds behind qualifier Paul Hession.
Smyth’s status as Ireland’s most successful-ever Paralympian is long-established, however, while no Irish track athlete comes close to his medal haul.
He burst on the scene for Ireland as an 18-year-old at the European Championships in Espoo in 2005.
T13 100m and 200m golds were secured in the Finnish city, and he repeated the feat a year later at the World Championships in the Dutch city of Assen.
Smyth was selected for the Irish team at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, China, and duly won both the T13 100m and 200m events.
He chose to focus on open events following Beijing and made history by becoming the first Paralympian to compete at the open European Championships in Barcelona in 2009.
He spent three years training with Olympic silver medallist Tyson Gay, who ranked Smyth in the top five technical sprinters of all time, alongside such luminaries as Maurice Green and Carl Lewis.
A time of 10.46 saw him finish fourth in his heat and 14th fastest of the 24 competitors, just short of the standard required to make the final.
Three of the athletes who finished behind Smyth in the same heat recorded personal best times, while heat winner Christophe Lemaitre would go on to win gold.
Smyth made a double bid for Paralympic and Olympic qualification in 2012, and ran a time of 10.17, inside the qualification time, but the event was deemed ineligible due to wind.
He ran 10.22 at a qualifying event in Florida in 2011, just 0.04 seconds short of the Olympic A standard time.
It went right down to the wire as he faced Hession in the final of the Irish Championships in Dublin in July 2012.
Despite running a time of 10.38 in the final, he was pipped at the line by a hundredth of a second by Hession. His time was 0.12 seconds short of the Olympic standard of 10.18 but the millimetre advantage Hession enjoyed booked his place on the plane to London
At the 2012 Paralympics, Smyth set a current world record time of 10.54 before smashing it once again with a final with a time of 10.46 seconds.
He added a world record time of 21.05 seconds, which also still stands, as he took 200m gold a week later.
Smyth again went into the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil as World and European champion, and ran 10.64 seconds to earn his fifth gold medal in the 100m final.
Speaking ahead of Tokyo, Smyth said: “What will win it? I don’t know. I just know that what it takes to win a medal will be faster this time.
“I don’t know if I am happy with where I am at, you’re always nit picking and looking for more.
“I feel I am in a good enough position. All the work is done, it is about that fine tuning and then just executing on the day.”
And once again, Smyth’s execution in Japan was perfect.
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