Sadly Jason Smyth, the visually impaired athlete who ran alongside his able-bodied contemporaries in the 100m sprint, failed to qualify in the race heats.
Jason is also scheduled to run in the 200m and the 4x100m relay. We wish him well.
We talked with Jason before the Games kicked off.
Can you clarify the position with your selection for Northern Ireland’s Commonwealth Games team?
For para athletics they (the Commonwealth Games Federation) have selected a handful of events. Unfortunately none of the events are mine or Michael McKillop’s (fellow Irish para athlete). As far as I’m aware none of the Northern Irish athletes that compete for Ireland (are going). I know their events are definitely not running. I’m not sure about some of the British. It’s unfortunate.
You’re from Northern Ireland but you competed for the Republic of Ireland in the Paralympics in 2012. How did that come about?
If you’re from Northern Ireland you can compete either way but when I was first deciding who I was going to declare for, I honestly was not persuaded one way or the other. I didn’t say I was definitely going to be for Ireland or definitely British but my dad and my coach at the time, got in touch with both governing bodies and just wanted to see what they had to say and if they were interested. It plainly and simply came down to the fact that Ireland came back and said yes; it would be great if you’d declare for Ireland. Britain didn’t really show interest and that just made my decision easy.
Part of the current confusion regarding your selection for the Commonwealth Games is whether you’d compete as a para-athlete or as an able bodied athlete. Do you approach para athletics differently?
For me, it’s about being as best as I can possibly be and I don’t restrict myself to what that can be. I feel like I’m lucky enough to have the ability where I’m able to continue to improve and set my sights to being able to achieve in mainstream events. So if the target is realistic, then for me if I can get to that standard, then I very much aim to do so. The last Commonwealth Games I had got the qualification standard and was supposed to be there as a mainstream athlete and I actually got injured so I wasn’t able to go.
Do you still have ambitions to be the first visually impaired athlete to compete in an Olympics and Paralympics in the same year?
Yes, very much so as I said, I try to set my sights high and the higher you set them the more you can focus and work towards it. If I reflect back towards London I was extremely close to doing that. I’d run the ‘B standard’ twice, I’d run a windy ‘A standard’ so I was four hundredths of a second away. I know I was close; too close and I’ll just try to do a little bit better moving forward to Rio (in 2016).
There are para athletes running the 100m only a second slower than Usain Bolt. Are the Olympics and the Paralympics one day, going to have to merge?
I don’t know. My honest opinion is I don’t think Paralympic athletes will get to that level. I think you will always get a number of very talented athletes who can get very close but as a whole we’re definitely not anywhere near that.
Do you expect to run faster than your best of 10.46secs?
Well this is another thing; my Paralympic World Record is 10.46secs but my quickest time is 10.22secs – so your quickest time only counts as a Paralympic record if it’s in a Paralympic event. So my quickest time wasn’t in a para event and it doesn’t count as a Paralympic Record.
I know you’re a Mormon. Is your faith swayed when things get tough?
My thought is that if everybody has it easy then how do you improve? From my experience the only way you improve as a person in any way, is when you face challenges or difficulties. That makes you get up and do more and make progress. For me, I can easily sit here and say that because of my eyesight I am a much stronger person on the inside than what I would’ve been. Because of the challenges I’ve had to face, I’m completely comfortable and confident in me.
About the Athlete…
Type of Impairment
He was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease at age eight. The condition causes progressive vision loss.
Start of sporting career
He took up the sport in 2005 at age 17.
Reason for taking up this sport
A teacher encouraged him to attend the local athletics club.
To compete at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, and at both the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
English football player Steven Gerrard.
Most influential person in career
Sporting philosophy / motto
“Half the battle in achieving your goals is just believing you can do it.”
He was selected to the able-bodied Northern Ireland team for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.