Tyson Gay, USA’s leading sprinter – and second only to Usain Bolt, in the World, today paid a glowing tribute to Ireland’s Paralympics champion, Jason Smyth.
In a lengthy interview with the official website of the International Paralympic movement, the USA’s top Olympic sprinter, Gay commented that whilst he can run 100 metres in under 10 seconds, he is not quite satisfied with his running technique.
No, Gay said. Technique,he went on, is more of a department suited for Jason Smyth, the visually impaired sprinter from Ireland who trains alongside him.
“I believe that Jason is very talented,” Gay said. “I honestly think that his running technique is better than mine. Sometimes, when he runs, he reminds me of Maurice Greene.”
“He would be in my top five when it comes to technical guys running,” Gay said of Smyth. “Maurice Greene would probably be No. 1. I think Carl Lewis may be in there, Asafa Powell, Leroy Dixon and then Jason.”
Five days a week, Gay and Smyth spend the winter months training together in the USA and the summer months training together in Europe. Gay’s advice has been of great assistance to the Derry man , who won gold in both the 100m and 200m races in the T13 classification at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games and who is hoping for a repeat in London 2012.
“He gives me advice all the time and tells me things he’s seeing or watching and what needs to be changed and what it’s supposed to feel like,” Smyth said. “Getting advice from somebody who’s been there, done it and knows what it’s supposed to feel like, it’s priceless really, isn’t it?”
As SportsNewsIreland readers will recall , Smyth became the first Paralympic athlete to participate in the able-bodied European Championships in 2010 in Barcelona.
Smyth, a fast learner who puts his heart into everything, according to Gay, may have the chance to compete at the able-bodied World Championships in South Korea in August, which would push him one step closer toward his ultimate goal of competing in both the Olympics and Paralympics.
Smyth ran a personal-best time of 10.22 seconds in the 100m earlier this year, but that’s only good enough to qualify as a “B” standard for the World Championships.
Unless he runs a 10.18 before the end of next month, it will be up to Athletics Ireland – the country’s national Athletics federation – to determine if anyone with a “B” standard time will be a part of the Irish squad . And they have already been quite clear in various statements that they would only accept “A” standards for the World Championships.
The 24-year-old suffered a setback at the end of 2010 when he had to stay off the track completely for nearly three months due to a serious stress fracture.
The injury meant that Smyth had to ‘drop out’ of the 2011 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, in January, but after several months of rehab and devoting his life completely to training, Smyth is now back on track for London next summer.
Gay revealed that Smyth is extremely talented in getting out of the blocks, but that he is still working on how to best run around the curves of the track. The Irish sprinter is a bit limited because he cannot always see the lanes coming out in front of him with his almost obsolete vision.
Smyth, classified in the T13 category based on his level of visual acuity and visual field, said his sightline is roughly six to eight percent. He can see colours within close proximity; however, all objects are still extremely blurry, almost like looking through an unfocused camera.
“I can find ways to explain it, but I don’t think people can really understand it,” Smyth said.
But Gay has been telling him it does not matter whether he can see the lines or not. He just needs to relax and add a little more confidence to his step and he will be just fine.
“Just training with guys who run so quick, you have no choice but to be at your best every day or otherwise you’ll end up being too far behind and you’ll look silly,” Smyth said.
He has taken Gay’s advice with an open mind and in the meantime has developed a close friendship with him.
“He’s a real humble guy,” Gay said of his training partner. “This isn’t an egotistical way of showing. It’s more of if you are showing someone something that they’re doing wrong to make them better.”
Smyth continually strives to improve . In his own words: “I’m the kind of person that wants to be the best I can be and reach my potential” .
The Derry man hopes to compete in various European events this Summer – new of his achievements and those of other Irish athletes on the European circuit will be found here on SportsNewsIreland over the next few weeks