He’s officially known as the fastest Paralympian on the planet, and having a host of gold medals under his belt certainly shows the proof of that, but for Jason Smyth, it hasn’t always been an easy road as he explained to Newstalk Breakfast this morning.
“I have Stargardt’s disease,” Jason, who is also an ambassador for Fighting Blindness, began. “It’s an eye condition that I have which I was diagnosed with when I was eight years of age.”“Basically it affects the central vision and that is what people use for seeing things clearly and seeing things at distance – that’s the vision that’s affected for me.
“To describe it simply, if you look into a camera when it’s out of focus, you see blurry outlines of colour and shapes – that’s kind of what I see. It’s roughly about 10 per cent vision I have in both eyes.
“At the minute there isn’t a cure, but I think we’re making a lot of progress with technology and science, I’m optimistic that in the future something will happen and part of working with Fighting Blindness is to help them and support them moving forward,” he continued.So when did he realize that he could run fast?
“I always could run fast, long before I got involved in athletics, I played other sports and when you gave me the ball I could always run past people.
“It wasn’t until I was 16 that I got involved in athletics and it was then that I started to learn that I was fast in athletics terms and what that began to mean over time as I started to learn more about the sport,” the Derry man reflected.
“It was a school teacher who got me involved in athletics. She said that she thought that I should go to an athletics club, she saw some potential there so I told her I’d go along and see.
“I went along and that evening I met the guy who coached me all the way up to London 2012. It’s incredible to think that by that schoolteacher – Liz Maguire – giving me the opportunity or the suggestion towards athletics, what it led to,” he said, before going on to speak about the difficulties he faces when out on the track.“I don’t know what it’s like to have full vision, so I don’t know what it should be like to see clearly. No doubt it affects everything I do. With the 100m track, we have bright white lines on orange so the colour contrast is clear, but it becomes trickier if the track is wet with the glare off the water.”
So what’s for him after life on the track?
“To be honest, I’m starting to try and think about what I want to do and I’m still trying to figure that out. I will probably stay in sport, but I definitely won’t do coaching as you have to be able to visually see it and be able to give technical advice,” he finished.
You can listen to the full interview with Jason here.