Jason gets Ireland off to a flying start with gold medal
Published 10/09/2016 | 02:30
Ireland secured its first gold medal at the Rio Paralympic Games with sprinter Jason Smyth blitzing the field in the 100m final.
The Derry athlete is officially the fastest Paralympian on earth and showed that he had plenty left in the tank as he won yesterday's race in a time of 10.64.
Smyth, who has a genetic condition called Stargardt's disease that has left him with 10pc vision, won the 100m/200m doubles at the previous two Paralympics.
The 29-year-old now holds an incredible five gold medals from the Paralympic Games, but unfortunately this will be his only medal in Rio after the organisers opted not to hold a 200m this time around.
"It's a bit like a fairytale. I keep coming to these championships wondering when the fairytale is going to end," he said after the race.
Meanwhile, Galway cyclist Eoghan Clifford (35), who only took up the sport two years ago, secured a bronze medal in the C3 Individual Pursuit after beating Canada's Michael Sametz, bringing Ireland's medal tally to two.
Ireland's Paralympians have set themselves a target of winning eight medals in Rio, including four golds, in order to secure a spot among the top 30 countries on the medal table.
Dave Malone, Paralympics Ireland High Performance director, said it was an "ambitious target" but one that was achievable for the team made up of multiple world champions and podium performers along with a host of first-time participants.
"There is a quiet confidence among people going about their roles," he said. "We are competing in 10 sports and we're well placed to challenge for eight podium places and maybe a surprise in one or two."
While the target number is down on the medal haul of 16 secured by the Irish team in the London Games, Mr Malone said the team had seen a number of retirements and was taking into account the climate in Rio.
"London was as close to a home games as we are ever going to get. This is a very different dynamic. We're focusing on eight medals, it's a stretch target but one that is achievable. Our goal is to remain within the top 30 nations in the Paralympic Games," he said.
Despite widespread criticism of the athletes' village during the Olympics, Mr Malone said the team had experienced no issues with the accommodation.
"The rooms are pretty standard like they are for any Games. It's pretty much a bed, locker and a light. But we have no complaints, the catering hall is very good and we're very close to transport," he said.
While athletes at the Olympics had complained about the lifts constantly breaking down, Mr Malone said the Irish team had not experienced any such problems.
"Apart from a wait to use the lifts at peak times, there have been no problems," he added.
Concerns were also raised about major budget cuts leading to the downsizing of the workforce and the closure of the Deodoro Olympic Park.
However, Mr Malone said the team was happy, adding: "Thankfully, the cutbacks to the games haven't hindered us in any way."