I haven't ruled out crack at fifth Paralympics in Paris 2024 admits sprinter Jason Smyth
THIS summer’s rescheduled Tokyo Paralympics may be the only thing that matters at the moment, but record-breaking sprinter Jason Smyth hasn’t ruled out competing at a fifth Games in three years time.
It is 189 days until the Paralympics get under way on August 24, and Derry’s Smyth is currently training away in the warmer climes of the Canary Islands as the days tick down to his date with destiny.
After landing gold medals at Beijing 2008 (T13 100m and 200m), London 2012 (T13 100m and 200m) and Rio 2016 (T13 100m), nothing less than the top of the podium will do this time around.
Now 33, and having made his international bow in 2005, some might have expected that Tokyo could be Smyth’s swansong after a glittering career – but he insists Paris 2024 isn’t out of the question.
“I wish I could tell you the answer,” said Smyth, who was speaking as part of Toyota’s Start Your Impossible campaign.
“Really I look at cycles, and this cycle was originally supposed to be over last August and that was going to be my point to stop and reflect and think is another four years realistic or not.
“The only plus with this time is it’s only a three year cycle until the next one… I don’t know. I don’t rule it out. Some sprinters have been running very fast in their mid to late 30s, so it very much is possible.
“I believe I can go that long, I just have to see when I get to next year where I’m at. I don’t see why not, if I can stay healthy that’s probably the big thing, and keep putting myself in the right place then it’s possible.
“As you get older, obviously in elite sport you tend to be able to look less further into the future because there's more unknowns. That's possibly a positive and an opportunity. Is it different if I had to reflect in August 2020 or August 2021?
“A three-year gap does seem a lot easier of a jump.”
Any decisions on that front, however, will be dictated by how he performs in Tokyo.
Having been so long without regular competitive action as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, athletes around the world are in a state of flux heading into what could be the biggest moment of their careers.
And Smyth admits the element of the unknown is always there, particularly in these uncertain times.
“For me, performance is going to be massive part of it and being consistent. Now you don’t know what everyone else is doing performance-wise. This year someone could come in and run far quicker than me, and that is just out of my control but it is me feeling where I am at with that.
“And if I look at the last couple of years, I can run quicker than I have and there is still an opportunity there, so that performance will be a massive part of it. But there are other things.
“Body-wise, can your body keep dealing with the demands and the force you are trying to generate? Unfortunately in sport, sometimes you don’t know that answer until it is too late. And the huge unknown is that you don’t want to get to the point where it is too late. You have to get out at a good time but it is hard to know when that is.”
Rumours continue to dog the Olympics and Paralympics, although heightened speculation last month that neither may end up going ahead appears to have cooled off.
It also remains a distinct possibility that, should they go ahead, it would be without supporters in stadiums. With his level of experience though, Smyth feels he is ready for anything, regardless of what obstacles are thrown in the way.
“I nearly feel like I’m more motivated now than I’ve ever been.
“The more people try to put barriers up, the more motivated I become to actually prove people wrong. For younger athletes, newer athletes, it poses different challenges. For me, as much as all that is incredible, that’s not really what drives me or motivates me.
“At the end of the day I’m doing it for me, regardless of everything else around. We’ve had different experiences like London 2012 where the Games were incredible, and crowds and atmosphere, and then the opposite… like Rio was quite empty and there wasn’t the atmosphere.
“If you go to a Games and go well, it’ll be quite memorable in a different way. I know I can run faster, and I feel there is room for improvement.
“I like to try to achieve things that possibly nobody will ever achieve again.”