Ireland and the World of Sports - Vol. 5 - Jason Smyth

Last month’s instalment to the Ireland and the World of Sports Series was about Sonia O’Sullivan, Ireland’s first female Olympic athletics medallist. The first and second instalments to the Series were about Pat O’Callaghan and Joan Horan, Ireland’s first Olympic and Paralympic gold medallists, respectively. This month’s fifth and final instalment to the series is about ‘The Goldsmyth’.

Jason Smyth, the world’s fastest Paralympian, was born in County Derry on July 4, 1987. Jason was brought up in a sporty household and in the Church of Latter-Day Saints, to which he credits many of the qualities and much of the discipline behind his athletic prowess. At the age of eight, Jason was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, an inherited eye condition that affects the macular area of the retina and causes loss of vision. Jason has less than 10% vision and has competed in the T13 class for most of his career; in 2014 he was reclassified as T12 just before the European Championships in Swansea but was subsequently reclassified as T13 before the World Championships in Doha the following year and has remained in the T13 class since then.

Jason first got involved in athletics at the age of 16 when his PE teacher at Limavady Grammar School spotted his talent and recommended that he go along to the local athletics club, Derry City Track Club. Two years later, in 2005, Jason made his debut to elite Para athletics at the European Championships in Espoo, Finland, where he won gold in the 100 and 200-metre T13 sprints. To this day, Jason, the Goldsmyth, is undefeated on the major championship stage and has won a total of 19 golds between the Paralympics and the IPC Athletics World and European Championships.

Jason’s first Paralympic Games was in Beijing in 2008, where he won gold in both the 100m and 200m T13 events. At the 2012 London Paralympic Games, Jason, at the age of 25, accomplished one of the most outstanding achievements in the history of Irish sport when he completed the ‘Double Double’ by defending both his 100m and 200m titles and set what are still today unbeaten world records in both events with times of 10:46 and 21:05. Jason’s third Paralympic Games was in Rio in 2016, where he was again successful in defending his 100m title. Jason was not able to defend his 200m title at the Rio Games since the International Paralympic Committee decided to drop the T13 200m in 2013.

Jason is regarded as one of the most technically proficient sprinters alive by his peers in the world of athletics. President Michael D. Higgins has thanked Jason on behalf of the people of Ireland “for being such a positive role model”. The people of Ireland, both home and abroad, are extremely proud and excited that Jason will represent them at Tokyo 2020.