Ireland's Jason Smyth seals third 100m title in-a-row
Jason Smyth shrugged off the pressure of being red-hot favourite to win his third consecutive 100m title at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. Smyth’s time of 10.64 seconds was almost one-fifth of a second outside his seasonal best and slower than his 10.46 winning mark in London.
However, championships are not about times but about winning and the 29-year-old Eglinton man delivered again to make it five Paralympic gold medals since arriving on the Paralympic scene 10 years ago.
The defending champion had looked nervous the previous night in the semi-final as he was pushed all the way to line by Namibia’s Johannes Nambala. Unusually for one so dominant in the T13 category, only five hundredths of a second separated a relieved Smyth from his opponent at the line.
And it was Nambala, the reigning World 200m champion, who again provided the opposition in the final, but it was a more composed Smyth who shot out of the blocks and into an early lead.
Although the Derry Track Club athlete’s transition was not as good as it could have been, it still gave him a crucial metre of advantage which, despite the Namibian’s best efforts, he was able to hold to the finish line.
Nambala took a deserved silver medal in an African record of 10.78 and will contest the 400m later in the Games while Australia’s Chad Perris also set an Area Record of 10.83 seconds in third place.
“I was just glad that I was the first person to cross the line. It’s just incredible,” said Smyth after the race.
“This is my third Paralympic Games and my fifth gold medal. It’s a bit like a fairytale. I keep coming to these championships wondering when the fairytale is going to end.
“I knew the other guys were going to step up so I had to step up. I knew I was capable of a faster time. I have run quicker than these guys and I should be beating them if I can put things together. Thankfully I was the first man across the line.”
Irish president Michael D Higgins was among the first to send his congratulations to the triple champion.
“Winning another gold medal, his fifth, is an extraordinary achievement for Jason Smyth, who has already established himself as a world class athlete,” said the President.
“On behalf of the people of Ireland, I want to congratulate him on this success, and to thank him for being such a positive role model.”
In track cycling, Katie George Dunlevy, accompanied by Evelyn McCrystal, finished seventh in the one kilometre time trial in 1:12.332. That was six seconds slower than the winners, Sophie Thornhill and Helen Scott of Britain.
Manchester-based Colin Lynch put in a brave performance in the men’s C2 3,000m pursuit and was just four seconds off a place in the head to head for the bronze medal.
Galway’s Eoghan Clifford went one better in the C3 3,000m pursuit winning the right to cycle off against Canada’s Michael Sametz for the bronze medal.
In the pool, 14-year-old Nicole Turner from Portarlington, the youngest member of the Irish team, qualified for the final of the S6 50m Butterfly final.
Buncrana’s Rena McCarron Rooney lost in straight sets to China’s Jing Liu in the women’s Table Tennis B singles competition. The match only lasted 17 minutes as the Chinese notched up an 11-9, 11-4, 11-2 victory.
Earlier late Thursday night, Seaforde woman Bethany Firth had set a new World record time in retaining the S14 100m backstroke title. It was the second global best in the space of a matter of hours for the Ards Swim Club star who had also set a new mark in the heats.
Firth won the event in London while representing Ireland before changing allegiance in late 2012.
Her time of 64.05 seconds improved the 64.53 she set in the heats earlier in the day.
It was a debut to remember for Antrim woman Katie Morrow who top scored as the Great Britain women’s basketball team responded to their opening-day loss to Canada with a comprehensive 79-20 victory over Argentina.
Morrow finished with 16 points in all and the team are back in action today when they take on Germany at 3.45pm.