SPRINTER Jason Smyth admits the pressure he’s feeling the pressure as he bids to defend his T13 100m title at the Paralympic Games.
The Derry native, who has done some of his training for Rio in London this year, is dubbed the ‘fastest Paralympian on the planet’ but he believes competitors can use that tag as a motivational tool for beating him.
“I do feel pressure to perform at Rio,” he told Paralympics Ireland. “When you are the reigning champion everyone lined up at the starting line is aiming for one thing – to beat you.
“Now I have not only proven that I am the fastest Paralympian in my category, but the fastest Paralympian on the planet. It feels great to have achieved that, and I have worked hard to get to this point, but it also means there are other athletes out there who want to take that title away from me.
“All I can hope for now is to successfully defend my 100m title in Rio.”
It has been an interesting four years since London 2012, with Smyth – who has less than 10 per cent vision – having earned a gold medal at the World Championships in 2015 on the track, and seen the birth of his daughter off it, and he counts himself lucky to be a top athlete.
“I am lucky that I have built a career in sport,” he said. “I think any guy would jump at the chance to do sport rather than sit behind a desk all day. But at the end of the day it is my job and many days, it is hard work. You have to push your mind and body to the limit, and like most people and their jobs, there are days I wish I didn't have to do it.
“Then there are moments like hearing a crowd of 80,000 roar when my name is announced, crossing the finish line first, and standing on the podium hearing our national anthem that make it all worth it.”