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Sprinter Jason Smyth produces solid season opener in US

Double Paralympics gold medallist Jason Smyth
Jason Smyth has already qualified for this year's European Championships

Jason Smyth produced an encouraging opening to his outdoor season as he clocked 10.45 seconds for 100 metres in Florida over the weekend.

Smyth's time, as he finished fifth at a meeting in Gainesville, was only .03secs outside his personal best.

The Eglinton man's performance was again inside the European Championship standard and he seems certain to be on the Irish team in Barcelona.

Double Paralympic champion Smyth has been training in Florida since January.

The visually-impaired athlete aims to compete at both the Olympics and Paralympics in London in 2012.

Smyth, 22, has continued to make steady progress since clinching double Paralympic gold in Beijing in 2008.

Last year, he represented Ireland at the European Under-23 Championships and finished the season on a high by winning the Irish 100m title and qualifying for this season's European Championships by improving his personal best to 10.42.

Smyth clocked 10.48 in the heats at the Gainesville meeting and then improved to 10.45 as he finished fifth in the final despite running into a .5m head wind.

Given that it's early in the season, Smyth looks on course to considerably improve his personal best this year and Paul Brizzel's Northern Ireland record of 10.35 could well be under threat.

Mark Christie also produced encouraging early-season form as he clocked a personal best of 13:41.79 when winning the 5000m in Gainesville.

Christie, who won the Irish Indoor 1500m title in February after a long spell out because of injury, was less than two seconds outside the Barcelona 5000m standard.

His winning time cut .49secs off his previous 5000m best.

Mark Kenneally, who was a splendid eighth in the European Cross Country at Santry in December, clocked 13:52.40 to finish fifth behind Christie.

Lisburn athlete Kelly McNeice ran 4:21.90 to take second at a meeting in Alabama while on the other side of the world, Joanne Cuddihy won the Australian 400m title in Perth as she clocked 51.49.

see also
Sprinter Smyth claims Irish title
02 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Smyth claims second Beijing gold
16 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport

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