Meet Blind Paralympic Sprinter Jason Smyth
Irish Paralympic sprinter Jason Smyth is aiming to achieve the same feat accomplished by Usain Bolt in the Olympics. If the 25-year-old wins the 200m final on Friday night at the Paralympics in London he will have taken gold medals in both the 100m and 200m in back-to-back Games. He won both races in the T13 division at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
At eight years old, Smyth was diagnosed with Stargardts disease, a genetic condition that causes a gradual loss of vision. "For me to see what a normal person can see 100m away I have to stand 10m away. The quality of my vision is about 10 percent to that of a person with full sight," Smyth told Spikes. "I can see what car is driving past but I couldn’t see any detail."
At 16, a coach noticed his speed at school and put him under the wings of his current coach, Stephen Maguire. He won three Irish school championships, and didn't stop. In 2010, he became the first Paralympian to qualify for the European Championships. In 2011, he qualified for the World Championships. Smyth's dream is to become the first visually-impaired athlete to compete in the Olympics and Paralympics in the same year. In 2011, he missed qualifying for the "A" standard time set for London 2012 in the 100m by 0.04 seconds, but he hasn't ruled out the possibility of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Smyth trains in Florida with 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Tyson Gay, who gives his partner high praise. "I believe that Jason is very talented, I honestly think that his running technique is better than mine," said Gay. "Sometimes, when he runs, he reminds me of Maurice Greene. He would be in my top five when it comes to technical guys running; Maurice Greene would probably be No. 1. I think Carl Lewis may be in there, Asafa Powell, Leroy Dixon, and then Jason."
Smyth had the fastest qualifying time in the preliminary rounds of the 200m, but was a bit disappointed he didn't set a world record. "To be honest, I was hoping to sneak over it this time," he told the BBC. "But my priority is to get to the final."
He'll have another shot at that record on Friday at 2:15 EST (7:15 p.m. in London). You can watch live broadcasts of the games at Paralympic.org.