Six-time Paralympic champion Jason Smyth has said his decision to retire was “bitter-sweet” but “feels right”.
The Ireland sprinter, who was Paralympic sport’s fastest man from 2012 until 2021, has called an end to his career at the age of 35.
Unbeaten throughout his 18 years of competing, Smyth won nine world and six European titles as well as his Paralympic successes.
“It has been mixed emotions,” said the County Londonderry sprinter.
“I’ve known for a few weeks this is what I was going to do but now that the time has come and it is actually happening, it is the closure of this chapter.
“I look at what has been an incredible career with incredible moments – competing at the Games, competing in front of thousands of people, putting on the vest and winning gold medals.
“All of those pieces just won’t happen again and those are moments and highs that you can’t replace, so without doubt, when I look at those moments, it is bitter-sweet.
“But then there are other parts of being an athlete that are not so sweet and I look forward to something quite simple such as family.
“As an athlete you have got to be so selfish, so committed, everything you do is around ‘how does this impact training? How am I eating or sleeping?’
“My family are maybe going to the zoo and walking round a hill but I can’t go because I have to train. It is those little simple things in life that I feel I now have the ability to do a little bit more.”
Visually-impaired Smyth remained unbeaten during a Paralympic career which began at the 2005 European Championships and he is still the fastest Paralympian in his racing classification.
Having retired from competing, he has taken up a new role with Paralympics Ireland which will see him work as strategy manager with the organisation – and he is looking forward to moving his influence in the sport from on-the-track to off it.
“If I am honest, as difficult a decision as it was to make, it also felt like an easy decision to make because it just felt right,” he continued.
“It has been an interesting one. If you’d have asked me in January, Paris would have been the only thing on my mind. It wasn’t planned, it all just happened and flowed naturally.”
London and Tokyo Games the highlight of 18-year career
Asked to reflect the stand-out highlights of a career that included 21 major gold medals, Smyth turned to the London Paralympics, where he won a 100m and 200m gold double, and the Tokyo Paralympics, before which his preparations were hampered by injury problems.
“The two Games, for different reasons. Obviously, London 2012 was just as an experience. The build-up, the atmosphere and the hype. It was just an incredible Games.
“The Olympics were incredible and the Paralympics were incredible. Friends and family were there, full stadiums, just everything around the Games was an incredible moment.
“As a race, it was definitely Tokyo and a lot of that was down to what happened behind the scenes. It was the most difficult year in terms of injuries and I wondered at times if I was going to make the Games.
“I had doubts about whether it could be a career-ending situation and even if I did get to the Games, would I be in the shape to be able to perform at the level I needed to and wanted to.”
He added: “On paper I wasn’t even the fastest. The preparation wasn’t anywhere near where it needed to be but then to come to Tokyo and pull it together in the manner I did and win by one-hundredth of a second was incredible.”