NOT EVEN this pandemic’s total disruption of global sport has dimmed Jason Smyth’s desire to keep on breaking barriers and setting new records.
The fastest Paralympian on the plant says that the postponement of the 2020 Games by 12 months hasn’t lessened his ambition in any way.
Heading into the 16th year of his extraordinary career, he says: “I feel like I’m more motivated now than I’ve ever been. I nearly find with COVID, that the more people try to put up barriers up, the more motivated I become to actually prove them wrong.
The 33-year-old Derry superstar has already won five T13 Paralympic sprint crowns and 15 more global golds in his unbeaten career. Smyth’s competitive spirit, even after a year in which sport has been so badly disrupted, continues to embody the message of Toyota’s ‘Start Your Impossible’ campaign for which he is an ambassador.
Health and safety rules around Tokyo 2021 (August 24-September 5) will make it a very different experience for everyone involved but Smyth believes his fourth Paralympics still has the potential to be a great event, specifically because of all of the difficulties the world has faced in the past year.
“We’ve had different experiences like London 2012 where the Games were incredible with those crowds and atmosphere, and then the opposite, like Rio, which was quite empty and hadn’t the same atmosphere. With the challenges everyone has faced in the past year, if Tokyo goes well, it will be quite memorable in a different way,” he says.
“My motivation is where I’ve come to, where I am now. It’s been an incredible journey, an incredible career.”
“You know over the next number of years that it’s going to be over, so you don’t want to regret any of it. You want to make the most of it and, let’s be honest, make it last as long as possible, because you can never replace it.
“For me motivation isn’t an issue. The issue eventually for all athletes as they get older is when the body tells you enough is enough. You can’t plan for that,” he admits.
Smyth still hasn’t ruled out the possibility of staying on to Paris 2024.
“I’m just looking at Tokyo and then I’ll stop and reflect. The only plus is that it’s only a three-year cycle to the next Paralympics. I don’t rule it out because some sprinters have been running very fast mid-to-late 30s, so it very much is possible. I believe I can go that long and run faster. I just have to see where I’m at when I get to next year.”
Smyth, who is the second fastest Irishman in history (10:22 seconds), is still driven by the same two motives.
“I know I can run faster. I feel there is room for improvement and I also like to try to achieve things that possibly nobody will ever achieve again, like going unbeaten since my first major championships in 2005 all the way up to now.
“It’s still about doing what’s seen as impossible. I think that’s something that has always driven me throughout my career.”
Jason Smyth, Toyota ambassador and world’s fastest Paralympian, is pictured as Toyota Ireland looks forward to the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Toyota is an official partner to Paralympics Ireland and worldwide mobility partner to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Toyota’s Start Your Impossible campaign celebrates the best of human performance and can be viewed on www.toyota.ie