Irish sprinter Jason Smyth set the Bird's Nest track on fire when he won the T13 100m gold in a new Paralympic World record time of 10.62sec - a two-tenth improvment on the time he had set in the qualifying rounds earlier in the day. In front of a 90,000 strong capacity crowd and unfazed by a false start Smyth blasted out of the blocks to storm away from the field and with 40 meters had opened up a commanding lead that no one had any chance of closing. Alexey Labzin of Russia took silver 0.26 of a second off the Irish man (10.88sec), with Luis Felipe Gutierrez of Cuba taking bronze in 10.98sec.
Afterwards a delighted Smyth said of his debut Paralympic Games triumph: "I'm thrilled; it's awesome! I've put in so much work; it's all gone so well. To break my own world record twice in one day I knew it was there; it was just a matter of coming out and doing it on the big occasion, and I'm so pleased I did."
Smyth sensational win is the second gold for Ireland at these Games after his room mate Michael McKillop won 800m (T37) gold on Wednesday night also in world record time. In a lovely moment as Smyth reached the Irish contingent on his victory lap McKillop reached out and draped his gold medal around Smyth’s neck. It is the third Irish medal at these Games after Gay Shelly got the team off the mark on Tuesday with bronze in the individual Boccia competition.
After Amhran na bFhiann rang out for the second time in the space of two days and tricolour was raised in the shadow of the Paralympic flame Smyth’s full time coach Stephen Maguire spoke about this stunning Irish success.
“Jason had a super run, held himself superbly all day together all day. He put a marker down this morning, we knew by the reaction of the other athletes; he was the man to beat. Although he doesn’t show it there was obviously a fair bit of pressure there. He didn’t have the fastest start in the world but from 20 to 100 metres he absolutely nailed it.
It’s absolutely brilliant to break a world record twice in one day, to clock 10.62 is more than we could ask. There’s ninety one thousand people here, to run close to your PB with a false start and all that pressure is tremendous. It’s just magic and he so deserves this”, Maguire concluded.
Remarkably there is still more to come from Ireland’s latest Paralympic champion. The Derry flyer runs in the T13 200m in which he is the reigning world champion and record holder (21.83sec). The heats of the 200m are Monday with the final on Tuesday.
Two or Ireland’s four bikes raced in their final event today; the men’s road race at the spectacular Ming’s Tomb Reservoir venue. Dubliner Cathal Miller, in the LC1 class, started well, maintaining a good position nicely nestled among the leading group. Half way through the third lap of the six lap circuit however, Miller’s race was brought to a premature and unwelcome end when his rear tyre blew to the extent that it damaged the rim off the wheel and a write off.
Afterwards a frustrated Miller said:“ I’m gutted, it’s so frustrating because I know I was suffering and my legs were tired yesterday, but they really felt good today; they felt great out there. That makes it all the worse; I was where I wanted to be at that point and felt great. It is not the way I want to finish my campaign but I can’t complain about the effort; there was nothing wrong with that. It was unlucky and it’s just the way it goes unfortunately.”
Enda Smyth, (CP4 Class) was the other Irish rider in action at Ming’s Tomb. Despite a bright start the Dubliner found the conditions difficult especially with the effort in yesterday’s time trial lingering in his legs and took the decision to withdraw from the race with a lap to go. Miller and Smyth have now finished their representation in what has so far been an extremely successful Paralympic games for Irish cycling with a number of PBs, Irish records and high finishes.
It was the final day’s racing for the two Irish crews at the sailing regatta in Qingdao. The Sonar crew led by Paul McCarthy finished eleventh in both races 10 and 11 which secured them a ninth place finish overall. Skud crew; Amy Kelehan and John Twomey finished tenth and ninth in races 9 and 10 respectively. With the final race in their series cancelled due to delays earlier in the week, the Skud crew finished in tenth position overall.
Speaking from Qingdao, Irish Team Manager Denis Kiely said: “This fleet was of the highest standard with any one of the top five boats capable of winning gold. The standard of sailing was exceptional. Paul and his crew had expectations of finishing in a higher position but it wasn’t to be.
Kiely continued: “Amy and John in the Skud were happy with their performance during this regatta, they met their expectations. It was a fantastic experience that will stand to them all as they move forward.”
In table tennis, the Irish pairing of Eimear Breathnach and Kathleen Reynolds were back in action today at Peking’s University in the quarter-finals of the team event against the number three in the world; France. The Irish duo took first blood with Reynolds defeating Fillou in three sets. The Irish pair however was unable to maintain the momentum, ultimately losing to the French 3-1.
Speaking after the match first time Paralmypian Eimear Breathnach said “I am happier with my performance compared to my singles campaign, but still disappointed to lose.” Kathleen Reynolds added: “It was always difficult for us against the world number three team. We did our best but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough.”
Day eight for the Irish starts with swimmers Darragh McDonald and team mate Johnny Cummings finding themselves pitted against one another in the first heat of the 400m freestyle (S6) in the Water Cube bidding for a place in the evening final. Shortly afterwards, in the Bird’s Nest, Patrice Dockery goes in her final event; the heats of the T53 200m on the track hoping to make the grade for the final.
Paul Cassin’s 7-a-side football team is next up facing hosts China in their classification at the Olympic Green Hockey field. The winner of that match will progress to the 5th/6th place play off at these Games with the loser contesting the 7th/8th play-off on Tuesday. Finally for the Irish tomorrow both tandem bikes will contest their road races at the Ming Toom Reservoir.