Paralympic legend Jason Smyth bows out at top after ‘living the dream’

Paralympic star Jason Smyth has announced his retirement
Paralympic star Jason Smyth has announced his retirement

PARALYMPIAN Jason Smyth yesterday announced his retirement from Para Athletics. The Eglinton, Co Derry native has decided to hang up his spikes after an unparalleled career that spanned three decades and included four Paralympic Games - from Beijing in 2008, through London (2012) and Rio de Janeiro (2016) to Tokyo in 2021. 

The 35-year-old Paralympic and World champion retires undefeated in Paralympic competition. 

“I think now is the right time for me to step away from competitive Paralympic sport,” said Smyth. 

“I lived and fulfilled the dream and now I hope to support the next generation of para-athletes on their journey.  

“I have loved my time with Team Ireland, and I have many incredible memories that I will really treasure from my time as an athlete.”

Smyth’s career accomplishments include six gold medals at the Paralympic Games in the 100m and 200m events. 

He also claimed eight gold medals at World Championships and six gold at European Championships plus an often overlooked gold at the World Indoor Para Championships over 60m at the start of his career.

Smyth, who suffers from Stargardt Disease which limits his vision to about 10% of the average, retires on a high as the reigning European, World and Paralympic champion in the T13 100m. Retirement also means that his victory at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo less than two years ago may be remembered as his very best. 

Faced by a younger opponent faster that season, Smyth dug deep into his muscle memory and competitive juices to defeat Algeria’s Skander Djamil Athmani to the gold by a mere one hundredth of a second.

Away from the Paralympic arenas, the Derry Track Club sprinter won two national 100m titles, represented Ireland at three European Athletics Championships, the World Athletics Championships, and numerous Europa Nations Cup matches. He was the first ever Paralympian to compete in those events. 

He also represented Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 but will remain unsatisfied at never having experienced an Olympic Games despite coming within four-hundredths of a second of qualifying for the 2012 celebration in London with a 10.22 seconds clocking in Florida. That mark is still a Northern Ireland record.

“There are so many people that have helped me along the way, from my coaches, support staff, to my team-mates, partners and my competitors,” said Smyth. 

“I would especially like to pay tribute to my incredible and very patient family, especially my wife Elise and my daughters Evie and Lottie.” 

Fortunately Smyth will not be lost to the sport as he will be joining the staff at Paralympics Ireland where he takes up the role of Strategy Manager with immediate effect.

“I now look forward to joining my new team-mates at Paralympics Ireland,” he said. 

“I feel that I have a lot to offer thanks to my experiences as an athlete and as someone that has been in the Paralympic and disability sporting environment since my youth,” he added.

“I can’t wait to start this new stage of my career and giving back to the sport that has meant so much to me.”

Smyth’s retirement - along with that of multi-Paralympic medallist Michael McKillop - ends a golden era of disabled sport for Irish athletics.