JASON Smyth can barely bring himself to talk about how painfully close he came to competing at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Almost two years have passed since the Paralympic sprint sensation’s Olympic dreams were shattered as he agonisingly missed out on qualification by just four hundredths of a second.
That remains a painful memory for Smyth but the bitter disappointment was easier to take when he enhanced his status as the fastest Paralympian on the planet with a ‘double’ gold at the Paralympic Games the following month.
And yet from the ruins of that Olympic heartbreak, the Eglinton man, who has only 10 per cent vision because of an hereditary, degenerative eye condition, has picked himself up and he has a crystal clear vision of the future.
Qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is very much on Smyth’s radar - in fact it’s the ultimate goal for the two-time double parlaympic gold medalist.
It would be an achievement which would guarantee his place in the athletics and Olympic history books.
South African sprinter, Oscar Pistorius, beat him to the feat in London when becoming the first Paralympian to compete at both showpieces, but Smyth is determined to test himself against the world’s best able-bodied sprinters in the Brazilian capital.
“I definitely haven’t given up hope,” said a defiant Smyth. “I haven’t given up on trying to achieve that. It’s very much my target to also make the Olympics in Rio.
“I was four hundredths of a second away from the ‘A’ standard which is so close I don’t even want to think about it. I had the ‘B’ standard but they only accepted ‘A’ standards. That’s the way it is and you move on and learn from it. I’ve set my targets to do what I wasn’t able to do last time. And with a few more years experience and training, hopefully, it will stand me in good stead.”
Every decision he has made since his world record smashing, double gold success at the 2012 Paralympics has been carefully steered towards making it to the Rio Games.
Since completing that historic ‘double, double’ in 2012, Smyth has uprooted from his Florida training camp and relocated to his new London base.
It was a key decision to give up that enviable lifestyle where he shared a track with Tyson Gay to move closer to home.
“I just felt it was time for a change,” he explained. “It was time to do something new and see what other options are out there. Situations in my life had changed and it made me come to the decision that it was time to make a move.
“That move was to come back nearer to home and be based in London. I’ve been based there since the end of November or start of December so it’s only been a few months and it’s all about getting into the swing of things at the minute.
“I’ve been getting used to the transition and I’ve been trying to keep my head down and work hard and prepare for this summer, but ultimately you’re working towards every four years and this time it’ll be Rio.”
The weather plays an integral role in the life of a sprinter but Smyth believes he hasn’t jeopardised his Olympic ambitions by swapping the ‘Sunshine State’ for London’s unpredictable climate.
“Sprinters are always looking for the good weather because that’s when you’re body is able to move and perform better.
“That was obviously the reason for moving out to the States for a few years in the first place. But where I’m at in London I’m fortunate enough to have indoor facilities so I’m not dealing so much with the outdoor elements.
“The majority of times we can do what we need to do indoors. We also go warm weather training in critical parts of the year to prepare for the season.
“Many athletes train and prepare in the cold weather so you just learn different ways to go about it.
“I suppose the testing of things in terms of what is working and what isn’t is over the next few years and we’ll see how I run. So hopefully it goes well.”
“Commonwealths” the Immediate Focus
While the Olympic dream and a possible ‘treble-double’ gold medal at the Paralympics are the ultimate goals, the immediate aim is to qualify for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer.
Smyth has never represented N. Ireland in a senior competition due to injuries, therefore, he’s determined to make the 10.30 secs. qualification time for the 100 m. event.
“Initially this year the Commonwealth Games is the focus. I’ve never actually competed for N.Ireland in a senior championship so that would be a nice thing to do.
“I would very much like to run under 10.30 seconds. I have the European Paralympics and European Championships in Zurich as well this summer so it’s going to be busy.
“It would be fantastic if I could go on and achieve a ‘treble double’ but I think, for me, it’s about trying to focus on now and making sure I train right and making sure I’m prepared to be there. But I believe I can.”
Much has changed for Smyth in such a short period of time. A new training base in a new country and new goals.
The unassuming local man is also getting used to life with his beautiful new American wife, Elise, and he believes all his changes in life have made him a much stronger person.
“I think it (marriage) has grounded me.
“Before I got married everything I did was about me. And now it very much becomes a team effort.
“Now all the great things I get to do and the great places I get to go to, I now have someone to experience that with.”