Stephen Doyle
Stephen Doyle

06.00 26 Mar 2020


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Irish sprinter and medal machine Jason Smyth is hoping that his qualifying time for Tokyo 2020 still stands for the rescheduled Paralympic Games.

The International Olympic Committee announced on Tuesday that the Games were being postponed until the summer of 2021 at the latest.

While admitting to having mixed emotions on hearing the news Smyth believes the right decison was made but having already run the qualifying time, he is uncertain as to whether that will still stand.

"I have no idea. I’d say nobody knows because this announcement has only just been made and now they’re starting to look at the details," said Smyth.

"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. For me it’s about peaking at the right time."

Smyth's self-confidence, like all elite sprinters, is never in doubt and he has put himself in a position to hit his peak at the right time having started his Tokyo 2020 preparation shortly after the last Olympic Games in Rio ended.

However, with this curve ball of the postponement thrown at him, the Eglinton native has a lot of problems to contend with.

"It's difficult. Probably the most difficult part, and it isn't just sport, is the unknown," said Smyth.

"For me things like having to access services, the Sport Institute (of Northern Ireland - SINI) is closed because people are working from home and I need people-to-people contact.

"Look at physios, what can they do? If I don’t get access to treatment, the longer it goes on, it increases the risk that I’ll get injured.

"There’s funding – will this have an impact on next year? There are huge questions and unknowns. Answers will come as time goes on and it’s all out of our control.

"For me, it’s about staying as close to where I am now as possible and dropping off as little as possible. I’m in the best shape I have been in six or seven years."

Keeping in shape is now a massive challenge for the 32-year-old (who will be 34 if the Games are rescheduled for July 2021) and it is one he is taking head on.

"You can’t put the feet up. What you do this year sets the foundations for next year," added Smyth.

"In my sport, we’re preparing to run fast during the summer so if I decide to take a break, by the time next year comes around I’ll be looking back and thinking 'when was the last time I ran really fast?'

"The answer would be the summer of 2019 – that’s far too far away.

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

"I need to be in that shape and then later in the year look to build through winter training just like a normal season.

"Athletics Northern Ireland have given me some gym equipment (he had none at home until before COVID-19 became an issue as he used SINI facilities) and that gets me by in terms of core work, strength exercises.

"It’s good that I can do all of that here in my home."

In May 2016, Smyth only missed out on qualifying for the European Championships by 0.01 seconds, clocking 10.39 at a meet in the United States.

He was also denied qualification for London 2012 by an illegal wind reading after running 100m in 10.17 but feels that he is slightly off those times now.

"I haven’t been close to that standard for a few years," admitted Smyth.

"In 2012 I went close and then got injured in 2013 and ended up needing an operation. I have been improving ever since, but I haven’t gotten back to that level.

"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.

"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. I’d have to be very close to my potential and I would need everything going in my favour.

"The faster I run at the moment, the more I’d be thinking of Paris in 2024, rather than the Olympics in Tokyo."

Jason Smyth is a Toyota ambassador and the world’s fastest Paralympian. Toyota is an official partner to Paralympics Ireland and worldwide mobility partner to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Toyota's team of five Irish athletes; Jason Smyth, Ellen Keane, Nicole Turner, Noelle Lenihan and Patrick Monahan will all feature in their "Start Your Impossible" campaign as they prepare for the Tokyo Games in 2021.Visit www.Toyota.ie for more information on Start your Impossible.


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