Smyth getting help from Gay in a bid to reach Olympics
WHEN he claimed double Paralympic gold in Beijing three years ago, Jason Smyth's feats were likened to Usain Bolt, but it is the Jamaican's biggest rival who may hold the key to him realising his Olympic ambitions come London 2012.
GET ON BOARD: Jason Smyth, pictured with world bronze medallist Sally Brown, has been helping promote the London 2012 Paralympic Torch Relay
Smyth, who is visually impaired due to Stargardt disease, has for the past three years spent the winter training full-time in Florida alongside Tyson Gay, the second fastest man of all time and triple Olympic champion Bolt's nearest rival.
And the 24-year-old has followed up winning Paralympic T13 100m and 200m gold in Beijing by competing at last year's able-bodied European Championships and this summer's World Championships in Daegu and is determined to make his mark on next year's Olympics.
And Derry-born Smyth admits the support of Gay has been pivotal in the vast improvement he has made since 2009, shaving two tenths of a second off his 100m personal best to lower it to 10.22seconds.
"It's great being able to train with Tyson and he's always happy to give advice," said Smyth - who has been helping promote the London 2012 Paralympic Torch Relay, in association with Lloyds TSB.
"He's such a nice guy and very down to earth. I have benefited a lot from being there with him and when he tells you something it's a little different because he is talking from an athlete's point of view.
"He's happy to tell me if there is something he feels I could tweak slightly or what can work for him and that's very useful.
"I've been out there for three years now. I first gave it a try after Beijing with my coach Stephen Maguire, but this will be my third winter training season.
"It seems to work pretty well, and Stephen has integrated into Lance Brauman's [Gay's coach] group."
Smyth lies just four hundredths of a second off the time he needs to nail down a spot in London and he is confident he can join ‘Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius in becoming the first athletes to compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics in the same year.
At the recent World Championships in South Korea, Smyth was edged out in the heats having clocked a time of 10.57 - but he insists his major competition experience will stand him in good stead in his quest to make 2012.
He added: "I'm only four hundredths away so hopefully I can make it but I was disappointed with how it went in Daegu. I think it's the same for every athlete, when you are out there you always feel you could have gone a little bit quicker.
"But everyone struggled with times, it's very rare to see only one person go under ten seconds in the 100m. I'm still delighted to have got down to 10.22 though, this time last year I discovered I had a stress fracture in my back, so I wasn't expecting it at all.
"I always see the Paralympics as what I have to perform in, I'm the champion after Beijing and I have to make sure I am on my game to hold on to my title.
"But I don't see a problem in preparing for the Paralympics and the Olympics. I don't really think about it as peaking for one event, I'm pretty good at maintaining my form."
Shine a light on someone that has made a difference in the disability community by nominating them to carry the Paralympic Flame with Lloyds TSB. To find our more or make a nomination visit www.lloydstsb.com/paralympicflame by 22 November 2011.
© Sportsbeat 2011