'Winning gold medals never gets old' - Victorious Jason Smyth already targeting Tokyo glory
Sprinter Jason Smyth won his fifth Paralympic gold medal after blitzing the field in the 100m final in Rio this afternoon.
The Derry athlete eased through his heat last night and showed that he had plenty left in the tank as he won today's race in a time of 10.64.
Smyth won 100m/200m doubles at the previous two Paralympic games, but unfortunately this will be his only medal in Rio after the organisers opted not to run the 200m this time around.
"I knew I was the one to be beaten" - Jason Smyth on winning another paralympic gold medal https://t.co/NA4xaaFpI0— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) September 9, 2016
Despite not coming into the medal race in the form that saw him claim the 100m world record in London, Smyth still recorded the fastest time in the heats and was only 0.16 off his record mark in today's final.
Smyth was elated with his performance: “This is my third consecutive Games and winning my 5th Paralympic medal is incredible. It is a bit like a fairy tale really, I keep coming to these major championships and winning gold and I just don’t want it to end.”
Being aware of the short time between the heats and finals, Smyth’s preparation for the final was good he said: “The turnaround between heats and the final wasn’t ideal. I felt I was able to get through the heats well, doing enough without killing myself. I was ready to go and today, I know I had to step it up another notch. I was able to do that.”
Speaking on RTE News, Smyth confirmed that he is aiming to make it gold medals in four consecutive Games by heading to Tokyo in four years time.
"Winning gold medals never gets old," he said. "This is year one of a five year cycle aimed at Tokyo."
The medal, Ireland's first at the Rio Paralympics, will be a huge boost to the team as they target a record haul, having won 16 in London four years ago.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Patrick O’Donovan TD, congratulated Smyth after his victory.
Minister O’Donovan, who was in the stadium to witness the victory, said: “Jason won his first gold medals at the Beijing games in 2008, and to achieve a 3rd 100m gold medal and 5th overall eight years later is a testament to his desire and determination to be the best in the world.
"It was a great pleasure to be in the stadium to witness Jason’s triumph and it will be a great honour to present him with his gold medal later today. I am delighted that Jason has retained his title of the fastest Paralympian in history.”
Minster Ross said: “I am delighted for Jason, he was a favourite coming into these games being the defending champion and to achieve a fifth gold medal is exceptional. I hope that his achievement of winning Team Ireland’s first medal on only the 2nd day of the games will give our other athletes a real boost.
"Hopefully this is the beginning of another successful Paralympic Games for Team Ireland.”
Elsewhere, in the Aquatics Centre, 14-year-old Nicole Turner qualified for the S6 50m Butterfly final on her Paralympic Games debut. An impressive swim in this morning’s heats saw the Laois student touch second in her heat in 38.44 seconds to advance in 4th place overall.
A delighted Turner spoke after the race: “I’m really happy, it wasn’t a PB (personal best) it’s the final though and I feel I can give it more. I don’t really do nerves but I was a bit nervous today, the experience and the atmosphere were just incredible.”
Looking ahead to tonight’s final, Tuner plans to “give it socks and see what I can do”; she will be looking to improve on her time and for a podium finish in tonight’s final at 10.18pm where Great Britain’s Ellie Robinson, the World record holder in the event, is the fastest qualifier through in 36.62 seconds.
Meanwhile, the Irish tandem pairing of Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal were also in action this morning and finished 7th in the WB Tandem Kilo at the Paralympic Games in Rio. Their time of 1.12.332 was a sea level Personal Best, netting them a position three places higher than the tenth place they finished in the World Championships in March. The event was won by GB’s Thornhill and Scott with a new Paralympic Record in a time of 1.06.283. Holland and Australia took silver and bronze.
Dunlevy and McCrystal were relieved to get their campaign started, and now move their focus to the endurance events later on in the Games. Speaking after the race they said; “It was good with the crowds to get out doing a race on the track. Now we can focus on the 3km; we are ready to race. The Kilo is flat out; your legs are hanging from one lap to go.”
The women’s tandem competes in the Pursuit event on Sunday, and that is a focus event for them; “The pursuit is paced and endurance, it suits us better. If you go out too hard in it you pay for it later; our coach is on the side and he gives splits while we pace.”
In the men’s Individual Pursuit qualification rounds, Colin Lynch and Eoghan Clifford were both in action with Lynch finishing 5th in a time of 3.53.300 which was not enough to see him through to the medal races. Clifford finished 4th in his event and he will now compete for the bronze medal against Sametz of Canada at 22.35 Irish time this evening.
Elsewhere, in the Table Tennis competition, Rena McCarron Rooney went in her Singles Class Qualifier (Group B) opener against China's Jing Liu with real optimism but, despite playing well, was beaten by Jing Liu in a score of 11-9, 11-4, 11-2.
Speaking after the match, Rena commented: “I knew it was going to really tough, she is the Paralympic Champion from Beijing and from London, so I knew what to expect. My goal was to get my own game going, which I did. I served really well but she has an amazing reach, and she was just too strong for me.”
Rena McCarron Rooney will face Jordan's Maha Bargouthi at 22.40pm tonight.