Jason Smyth upbeat ahead of London 2012 double challenge

By John HaugheyBBC Sport NI
Jason Smyth
Jason Smyth competed at this year's World Championships in Daegu

Sprinter Jason Smyth says he is "just where I want to be" after two months of uninterrupted training at his winter training base in Florida.

Smyth, like Oscar Pistorius, is hoping to compete at both the Olympics and Paralympics in London next year.

The Northern Irishman is on course to defend two paralympic sprint titles in the British capital and is only .04secs off the Olympic 100m A standard.

"Things have been going pretty well. Track, gym...everything," says Smyth.

The 24-year-old trains alongside sprint superstar Tyson Gay as part of the group of athletes coached by Lance Brauman at the National Training Centre in Clermont.

Smyth's own coach Stephen Maguire forged the relationship with Brauman back in 2008 and is now an integral part of the American's coaching team in Florida.

"I've been back out in Florida since the start of November and I've had no real niggles and hopefully that will continue over the next number of months," adds the double Paralympic champion from Beijing.

"I'm back home now for a short visit and will give myself three days off over Christmas but I head back to the States on the 30th of December."

Smyth had perfect vision up until the age of nine before the hereditary condition Stargardt's Disease began to cause his sight to deteriorate.

It wasn't a sudden loss of sight but adjustments had to made in his life from then on.

However, the visual impairment didn't prevent Smyth from winning Irish Schools titles and his continuous progression saw him successfully combining paralympic and able-bodied competition to the extent that he became the first paralympian to compete at a European Championships in Barcelona last year.

The Londonderry man's achievement in qualifying for the 100m semi-finals in the Catalan city only increased his belief that he could double up in London.

However, a series of injuries - most seriously a stress fracture in his back - have since threatened Smyth's London ambitions and he missed both the Commonwealth Games and Paralympic World Championships.

"Over the last 18 months or so, I've had to work around the injuries," says Smyth as he took a break from gym work at the Sports Institute of Northern Ireland in Jordanstown on Thursday.

"At the minute, I still do some extra work and extra rehab just to keep on top of things."

Inspite of his injury woes, Smyth still managed to reduce his Northern Ireland 100m record to 10.22 in Florida last May - a mere .04secs off the Olympic A standard - and he earned a trip to the World Championships in Daegu three months later.

But the summer campaign left Smyth with mixed emotions.

"This time last year, when I was injured, I would have grabbed with two hands the chance to run 10.22 and go to the World Championships.

"But the flip side of that is that once you are going through the season, you wish things could have been better and that I got the A standard if maybe I'd got a clearer run at things."

On top of his injury niggles, Smyth also had to cope with a skin rash which severely affected his sleeping patterns for several weeks in the early summer.

The season ended in frustration as the Derryman clocked 10.57 in his first-round heat in Daegu to exit but four months on, Smyth's spirits are high.

"Looking at last season, I could have run the standard if things had gone well.

"This year is the same. I will start racing a little bit earlier (in late April) just to give myself every opportunity."

Smyth ran his 10.22 at his 'home' track in Clermont and he and coach Maguire are already earmarking a couple of meets at the same venue in late May and early June as live chances to achieve the Olympic A mark.

Irish 400m runner David Gillick
David Gillick's move to Florida did not prove successful and he has returned to his previous base of Loughborough

The sprinter's Irish team-mate David Gillick joined Brauman's training group ahead of the 2011 season but the Florida environment did not work for the two-time European Indoor 400m champion who has now returned to his previous Loughborough base.

"He was living in the house with us for the last few months," adds Smyth.

"I found it difficult in my first year too and my expectations were completely different of what it turned out to be.

"I wouldn't have expected it to be so lonely with not very much to do."

Smyth says that his Mormon faith has helped to him to maintain his focus even though he is so far from home.

"I have a good sense of who I am and where I'm going and and a good sense of the talent that I've been given and the opportunity not only to do well but maybe inspire others to achieve whatever it is they want to achieve.

"It's a big part of who I am in terms of how grounded I am and not getting carried away in the hype of how great things are."

With a rueful smile, Smyth's acknowledges that a longer Christmas break at home with his family in Eglinton "would have been nice".

"But on the other hand, 2012 is is probably the easiest year to be focused for it because you know it's so big.

"You'd like to be home longer for Christmas but you realise you have to get your head down and work hard and hopefully see the results by the summer."

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