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Well I could certainly get used to this!
Just three days after Ellen Keane’s heroics, and one day after the silver medal from Katie George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal, Jason Smyth has won Ireland’s third medal of the Paralympic Games.
From the outside it may have seemed like a dead cert for Jason. He has never lost this race before, winning gold in Beijing, London and Rio. However, this was anything but.
All week the talk has been of Algerian Skander Djamil Athmani who was a serious threat to Jason, running a very similar time. This was a medal that the 34-year-old was going to have to fight for like never before. As he said himself after the race, on paper, he shouldn’t have won. Athmani confirmed his threat status by qualifying first during the heats, running 10.59 compared to Jason’s 10.74 and all of a sudden my confidence bubble began to shrink.
Although my leg was bobbing up and down for about two hours before the race, I wasn’t as nervous for this final as I was for Ellen’s. Jason was annoyed at his performance after the heat, he knew he had more in him and that’s always a good sign.
As cliche as it sounds, he left everything on the track. To the point where he didn’t even know that he had won once he crossed the finish line, he had to ask his coaches – that is how close this race was.
— Paralympic Games (@Paralympics) August 29, 2021
Jason is a superstar but he is also a very humble and likeable person. After the race he spoke about injuries he has had during the year and how tough it has been for him, something he has not discussed before. You could tell that this gold medal was unexpected and so, so special as a result.
When Ellen won gold, I listened to Amhrán na bhFiann by myself in the stadium but for the first time since day one, all of the Irish media team in Tokyo were in the one venue and that in itself was a special thing. During the planning stages of this trip, I thought I would be on my own for all of it since I was the only person from Pundit Arena travelling.
But I was very wrong. It doesn’t matter who we’re writing for or who we’re snapping for, we are all sharing these experiences together and that has been the best part of this journey. (Well so far anyway). The Irish were out in force in the Olympic Stadium tonight and definitely made themselves heard and you could see how much that meant to Jason as he collected his medal.
Hearing our anthem being played on the Olympic/Paralympic stage is something that Irish people will never take for granted. What’s rare is wonderful. As Jason said in his post-race interview, you never know how long it’s going to last so we have to enjoy it while we have it. I hope Irish people know how lucky we are to be living through this golden era of Jason Smyth. There will never be another.