Interesting story out of Ireland featuring a sprinter who won gold at the 2008 Paralympics and is how hoping to become the first person to compete in the Olympics and the Paralympics in the same year. Jason Smyth is training with Tyson Gay, and his times put him right in the mix.
Smyth said the high calibre of his training partners, who are based in Florida, had made that goal achievable. Last week at a meeting in Tampa, he improved his 100m and 200m personal bests to 10.41sec and 21.09, closing in on Ireland's national 100m record of 10.35sec. Working with Gay, Steve Mullings, a world champion in the short relay, and the Olympic gold medallists Aleen Bailey and Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie has propelled Smyth into the fast lane. After July's European Championships in Barcelona he is aiming for a place at the Commonwealth Games in October and then at next year's World Championships in South Korea.
How can he run that fast and be in the Paralympics? He qualifies for the Paralympics because he's visually impaired. Not blind, visually impaired. In fact, he says his sight isn't as bad as people think.
Smyth is the only athlete in the group of 14 who competes in paralympic events but he said his disability had not been seen as a hindrance. "They've always just accepted me, I fit in. They like to have a joke and say: 'Is he really blind?' People think if you're visually impaired you must be pretty close to blind; they think it's a lot worse than it is."
He competes in the visually impaired category (T13) of the Paralympics, so he's not racing against people missing limbs. But still, it seems a little odd that he's running in the Paralympics when his disability doesn't seem to affect his performance (and he says it's not that bad); he's only 6-hundredths of a second off of Ireland's national 100m record. Regardless, it'd be a cool story to see someone from Ireland compete in both of London's 2012 Games.