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Dublin: 16°C Saturday 8 May 2021

Paralympic Village: Smyth secures iconic status

The sprinter, along with Mark Rohan and Catherine O’Neill, added to Ireland’s medal haul today.

Ireland's Jason Smyth celebrates with his Gold medal on the podium after winning the Men's 200m T13 Final at the Olympic Stadium
Ireland's Jason Smyth celebrates with his Gold medal on the podium after winning the Men's 200m T13 Final at the Olympic Stadium

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER struggle to find the superlatives to appropriately describe Team Ireland’s performance.

Jason Smyth, Catherine O’Neill and Mark Rohan all did their countries proud in London today, emulating the equally impressive displays of an abundance of Irish performers before them.

So read on, and savour what is likely to our best performance in a major event for a very long time.

What we learned today

  • Jason Smyth is an Irish icon

The sprinter produced a performance that was worthy of the very best Irish athletes this evening. He won his race easily, finishing with a time of 21.05, well ahead of Alexey Labzin in second (21.95) and Artem Loginov (22.03) in third. And of course, his decision to emulate Usain Bolt’s famous race-winning pose was well-earned.

Not to be outdone meanwhile, Mark Rohan and Catherine O’Neill also produced medal-winning performances for their country.

  • Finland and Japan are the kings and queens of golball

Japan beat world champions China 1-0 to claim the women’s goalball gold medal at the Copper Box on Friday, in the blind sport played with a rattling ball before a silent crowd.

Meanwhile in the London 2012 Paralympic men’s final, Finland thrashed Brazil 8-1.

  • Esther Vergeer is the Roger Federer of Wheelchair Tennis

Dutch wheelchair tennis ace Esther Vergeer on Friday stretched her remarkable unbeaten run to 470 matches as she struck Paralympic gold again.

“I know the day I will lose will come but I don’t know when,” the 31-year-old said after beating compatriot Aniek van Koot 6-0, 6-3 on the blue hardcourts of Eton Manor to take the title for the fourth time in a row.

In the women’s final, China, the silver medallists at Beijing 2008, were looking to go one better but Japan managed to shut them out and claim the title.

  • Natalie Du Toit will be missed

At the pool, 13-time Paralympic gold medallist Natalie du Toit broke down in tears after winning silver in the S9 100m freestyle behind Australia’s Ellie Cole.

“It’s all over,” said the 28-year-old Du Toit, who was a promising non-disabled swimmer until 2001 when she had her left leg amputated below the knee after a scooter accident.

“I walk away with absolutely no regrets. I look back and I think I gave everything. No matter what emotions you go through I gave everything in the pool, everything as a person and I’m satisfied.”

The Cape Town swimmer’s story of courage in the face of a major setback has inspired millions.

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How the other Irish athletes got on

Ray O’Dwyer had the misfortune to be the only other Irish athlete competing today. He put in a respectable performance, finishing 18th in Men’s Discus Throw F32/33/34.

Hero(es) of the day

(Catherine O’Neill celebrates with coach Michael Bergin – h/t @ParalympicsIRE)

It’s impossible to single out any one member of Team Ireland, who are currently second in the medal table when it’s adjusted for population. Iceland are first, incidentally.

Video of the day

Check out this hit:

YouTube credit:

You said what?

“There’s no getting away from it, it’s difficult with the slightly under 10 percent vision that I have.

“So you can imagine it can only be difficult in everything you do, from everyday life to running but you’ve got to learn to get on with it. The more you sit back and get frustrated the more it holds you back.

“Everybody has got their own issues in life, whatever they may be and it’s about making the most of what you can do.”

- Jason Smyth describes his inspirational story.

“It’s what I dreamed about, thought about and did everything for. There was so much pressure.

“Everybody expected me to win gold and that I would win but I still had to work hard, to go to training, to be at the top of my game. A lot of people forget that.”

- Dutch wheelchair tennis star Esther Vergeer’s reaction to winning gold this evening.

(Medal table, as of 23.02 this evening)

Courtesy of the official Paralympics site.

Additional reporting by AFP.

Read: Another world record! Jason Smyth claims gold in style>

Read: Mark Rohan’s coach deserves the gold medal for Paralympics celebrations>

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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