Super Saturday as Smyth and McKillop each win world championship gold
Unarguably Ireland’s leading Paralympic athletes’ sprinter Jason Smyth, and middle distance runner Michael McKillop have each won gold at the Paralympic Athletics World Championships in Doha this evening in their respective finals making it a super Saturday for the Irish team.
Smyth stormed to another world championship title winning the T13 100m in 10.62seconds. Remarkably this latest gold medal winning performance is Smyth’s fifth world title; his third at 100m, the other two are at 200m. He will not however defend his 200m title this year; he flies home tonight as his first baby is due tomorrow.
The visually impaired sprinter is also world record holder and back to back Paralympic champion at both distances which unsurprisingly has earned him the title of ‘the fastest Paralympian on planet’. The Derry man who has spent the majority of his season rehabilitating and rebuilding following knee surgery in January will have been delighted to finish it on such a high. In his first world championships Brazil’s Gustavo Araujo impressed to take silver in 10.90 with Australia’s Chad Perris third in 10.96.
As he came off the track Smyth said: “It was great to get out there and start competing. It’s been a couple of years since the last Worlds so it’s great to be here and cross the line first. I’m very happy with my time. Obviously you always want to be quicker but at the end of the day I got gold and that’s all that matters for me.”
Speaking about the win Irish team manager James Nolan said: “Jason has been reporting he is feeling great in training, watching him here in Doha he looked great in training. Our physio Jon Faulkner had been reporting in screenings that he is in super shape. Considering all that it was no surprise to see him power to victory yet again in a very good time.”
Just as Smyth’s medal ceremony finished fellow back to back double Paralympic champion and world record holder McKillop stepped out onto the track in the final of the T38 800m. In what transpired to be a great race the Australian athlete Deon Kenzie led out the field. With about 420metres to go McKillop made a decisive move and kicked on to open up a gap of about ten metres on the chasing pack over the back straight. Unsurprisingly they came back to the Irishman after his brave push but McKillop held on to cross the line as world champion in a season’s best of 2:01.31sec with Tunisia’s Abbes Saidi second in a PB 2:02.34sec and Louis Radius third also in a PB 2:05.39sec.
Having only very recently returned to the track following a prolonged and frustrating injury lay off McKillop was naturally delighted with his win. Speaking afterwards the Antrim man, who is coached by his father Paddy said; “This gold medal means a lot to me. I will forever remember this day, not because of the time but because I never thought I would get to the start line after a really horrific injury. It’s been so tough mentally but thanks to my family, and especially my girlfriend’s support, I am here and I am still unbeaten.”
Irish team manager and head of athletics at Paralympics Ireland James Nolan added; “Michael did very well to retain his 800m World title here in Doha. He’s had a rough road with injuries over the past year and his dedication to rehabbing the injuries has allowed him be in a position to win the IPC World championships tonight.”
Tomorrow is a rest day for the Irish team with nobody in action. Making her world and major championship debut on Monday Cork teenager Noelle Lenihan will be the sole Irish athlete competing. The fifteen year old, who has cerebral palsy, is ranked third in the world heading into the F38 Discus final. It is set to be a thrilling competition as a mere half a metre separates the athletes ranked first to fourth.
The Irish team is proudly sponsored by Allianz, an official sponsor of Paralympics Ireland.