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Age no concern for Smyth as bid for a fourth 100m gold must wait

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Jason Smyth is one of five athletes featured in Toyota’s ‘Start Your Impossible’ campaign

Jason Smyth is one of five athletes featured in Toyota’s ‘Start Your Impossible’ campaign

Jason Smyth is one of five athletes featured in Toyota’s ‘Start Your Impossible’ campaign

Paralympic T13 100m champion Jason Smyth insists his age will be no worry when the Tokyo Games eventually come around after the event's postponement.

The Derryman, who turns 34 in July next year, hopes to strike gold again as Olympic and Paralympic chiefs look to different dates in 2021 after the Covid-19 crisis disrupted plans for this year.

"As you get older and closer to the end of your career, it's harder to plan four years ahead, but Paris 2024 is only three years on from Tokyo now," Toyota ambassador Smyth says.

"I am in better shape than I have been in six or seven years; I'm in a good place. Being in a good place increases my longevity so the delay doesn't change anything for me going into next year."

The global pandemic has put sport on hold but the T13 sprinter, who boasts three 100m and two 200m Paralympic gold medals, believes it's no time for rest.

The 32-year-old has borrowed gym equipment for his home near Belfast after his normal training base at the Sport Institute for Northern Ireland was forced to shut.

"You can't put the feet up. What you do this year sets the foundations for next year. In my sport, we're preparing to run fast during the summer," he reflects.

"Training-wise, I plan to still be able to run fast this summer even though there are no guarantees that there'll be races."

Smyth believes he is luckier than most as he can adapt his own discipline easier to these new constraints.

"Take middle-distance runners, they need less gym work and they can run more on the road or grass. In technical events, like the jumps, they rely on equipment, swimmers need a pool."

Smyth's sporting and family life will be drawn closer as he trains at the home he shares with wife Elise and their two daughters Evie (4) and Lottie (1).

He values their support as the sprinter, who is partially blind, considers how the lockdown imposed in Northern Ireland will affect able-bodied and disabled people.

"I am fortunate that I have a lot of support, I live with my family and if we need something from the shop my wife can drive down and get it. If you are relying on public transport it becomes much more difficult," he reflects.

"And it isn't just about disability. There are a lot of people who are financially impacted and who are going to find it very difficult in the next few weeks and months. I'm lucky that I am funded."

Smyth had been targeting a fourth consecutive 100m T13 title at this year's now-postponed Paralympics after already achieving qualification.

Even though qualification may be in doubt as sporting chiefs struggle to make new plans in uncertain times, Smyth remains confident.

"I assume I'll be alright, but qualification for me isn't a huge issue because I run that standard in most of my races anyway," he says.

However, it was an issue when he missed out on the 2012 London Olympics by just 0.04 of a second but he believes that dream could be achieved in 2024.

"Personally, I have to get back to that level before I could even think about getting to the next step, which would be qualifying for the Olympics," he says.

"I wouldn't rule anything out, but I have to be realistic and take it one year at a time. I ran 10.51 last year, 10.54 in November towards the end of the season, so I probably could have run 10.40. I would need to be running 10.20 to think about making that jump. Do I have the ability to do it? Absolutely."

Irish Independent