JASON Smyth has been granted a place in the N. Ireland Commonwealth Games squad for next month’s competition in Glasgow, despite fears the world’s fastest paralympian would face exlusion from the team for failing to meet the qualification time.
The 26 year-old Eglinton man last night claimed he would have no complaints should he miss out but today’s announcement from the N. Ireland Commonwealth Games Council will come as a huge relief for the double paralympic champion.
Smyth had missed the 2010 Games in Delhi due to injury and was clinging on to the rapidly fading chance he will make the plane to Glasgow, but his exclusion from the squad would have raised quite a few eyebrows given his high profile.
The visually-impaired sprinter’s inclusion as one of a 14 track and field athletes did come as a surprise while two other athletes who didn’t manage to achieve qualifying standards - Letterkenny middle-distance runner, Daniel Mooney and hammer thrower Dempsey McGuigan also made it.
Smyth, who won the N. Ireland and Ulster Senior 100m title at a rain-soaked Mary Peter’s Track in Antrim last Saturday in a time of 10.87secs, failed to meet the required 10.40secs standard set by the selection committee. That was his final chance to reach the qualification time.
And while the absence of the world’s fastest Paralympian from the squad would have been considered a glaring omission, Smyth had graciously accepted the likelihood that he wouldn’t be included before today’s meeting of the Commonwealth Committee.
“I’ve kind of got it in my head that I won’t be selected,” said Smyth last night. “They set a standard and I haven’t achieved it within the time. So for me, in my head, I think I’m more likely not to get selected.
“They set criteria for a reason and for whatever reason I haven’t been able to run that. I would be extremely disappointed not to get to go, but at the same time they set standards for a reason.
“I don’t quite fully know the process,” he admitted. “I think it’s a decision made between N. Ireland Athletics and the Commonwealth Games Committee and they sit down with a panel of who they’ve selected to compete.
“Obviously they go by those who have achieved the qualification standard and I’m not sure if they take people who are close to the standard or not. I won’t know until it’s announced.”
There were 11 qualifiers for the squad recommended for selection, however, it’s understood Athletics NI forwarded Smyth’s name, along with Mooney and McGuigan to the Commonwealth Committee.
It’s been an indifferent season for Smyth so far, disrupted by injury - his best time being the 10.40 set in Florida back in April.
And his chances were dealt a cruel blow on Saturday with the atrocious conditions not conducive for sprinting. However, having got the go ahead, Smyth is confident he can use the next eight weeks to manage his hamstring injury and cut significant time off his season’s personal best.
“The hard thing was with trying to get the standard, the cut-off point was so early and you’re running around playing catch-up to race and hope things go well rather than being where you need to be and knowing things will go well.
“It was horrible to say the least on Saturday. It really was a horrible day. It was more like a swimming championships than an athletics championships.
“As disappointing as it will be if I don’t get selected, at the same time they set the criteria for what people have to achieve and if I don’t make that then I’ve just got to accept that and move on. That was my last chance at the weekend but I know I’m capable of running under the standard. I have a number of times over the last number of years.
“I know I’m capable of it and if I’m fortunate enough to be selected then I’ve got the next six to eight weeks to try and get where I need to be.”