Jason Smyth, from Derry, was diagnosed with Stargardt disease at age 8. The condition, which affects his central vision, has deteriorated since then and he now has approximately 10% vision. While this affected his social life as a teenager, it never slowed him down and he always excelled in sport.
When he was sixteen he was approached by his PE teacher about joining an athletics club. His talent was quickly noticed and before long he was winning national titles in schools competitions, including the Irish Schools Championships three years in a row. By this time he had also become involved with Paralympics sport and had competed in, won, and set new world records in the 100m and 200m T13 races at the European and World Paralympic Championships.
In 2008 Jason competed at the Beijing Paralympics Games where he took gold in the T13 100m and 200m, breaking the world record in both. In 2010 he became the first Paralympics athlete to qualify and complete in the mainstream European Championships, making it to the semi-final in the 100m. He then went on to qualify and race in the mainstream World Championships in 2011.
From 2008 to 2012 Jason trained in Florida, working towards gaining the qualifying time for the Olympics 100m. He achieved the Olympic B standard in 2011 when he ran a personal best of 10.22 seconds, but fell 0.04 seconds short of the A standard and missed out on competing in the 2012 London Olympics. Jason again won two gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in the 100m and 200m races, breaking two world records in the process and earning himself the title of ‘Fastest Paralympian on the Planet’.
He won gold again in both the 100m and 200m in August 2014 in the European Paralympic Championships in Swansea.
On September 7 last Jason competed in a ‘Champion of Champions’ 100m race in Rio. The event was organised by the Rio 2016 Paralympic Committee to mark one year to go until the opening ceremony Rio 2016. The top sprinters from each Paralympic category went head to head for the first time ever to determine the official “Fastest Paralympin on the Planet”. Jason reaffirmed his title with a convincing win, crossing the line in 10.63 seconds.
Jason is currently living and training in the UK for the Rio 2015 Paralympic Games. We are delighted to have him speaking at teh Retina 2015 conference. You can follow Retina 2015 on Twitter using #RetinaDublin.