News Release

At home with Jason and Elise.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Irish Paralympic Gold medallist Jason Smyth and his wife, Elise.

As we are now in the dark evenings and the cold weather, let me take you back to the summer of 2021.  In August 2021 the world’s best Paralympic athletes gathered in Tokyo for the delayed 2020 Tokyo Paralympic games.  The 2020 games had been postponed to 2021 because of the Corona Virus Pandemic.  And even when the games finally did get under way, they did so with many restrictions.

Jason was competing for Ireland in his fifth Paralympic games.  His first games were in Beijing in China in 2008, then London in 2012, Rio in Brazil in 2016 and now Tokyo.  Prior to 2021, Jason had consecutively won 5 gold medals in his T13 100 metre and 200 metre sprint class.  And in Tokyo, Jason didn’t disappoint.  In without doubt, his closest Paralympic final, Jason was taken all the way to the line by Algeria's Skander Djamil Athmani.  Jason dipped at the line to win the race by one-hundredth of a second.

Jason arrived home to great acclaim.  Because of the restrictions, he was away from his family for just over a month.  Family, friends and media were all there to welcome him at the airport.  Since then, Jason has been busy with the media, speaking at a church youth fireside and being honoured publicly in his home village of Eglinton near Derry/Londonderry.

Now that the dust has settled, I thought I would sit down with Jason and his wife, Elise, to ask them some questions about being a top Paralympic athlete and married life.  Jason & Elise live at home with their 2 daughters, Evie and Lottie.  They live in Lisburn, just outside Belfast Northern Ireland.  They are members of the Lisburn ward of the Belfast Northern Ireland Stake.

Jason: You have now your 6th Paralympic gold medal.  Does the 6th feel any different to winning the 1st?

“Yes, it does. I would say the 6th one has been the most satisfying of them all and that’s because of the circumstances surrounding it. I had a very difficult year in terms of injuries which brought a lot of uncertainty. Even though everyone had me as favourite to win, there was a new Algerian sprinter that no one was aware of.  And he actually ran faster times than me during the year.  I put my race together and got my performance right on the biggest stage. Under that pressure, it brought me a lot of satisfaction.”

Elise – Jason’s final in Tokyo this year was very close.  What were your feelings as he crossed the line – and particularly as you were so far away, not being able to be there in person.

“It was very stressful to watch.  I slept very little the night before, and I was more nervous for this race than any of the others. When he crossed the finish line it was so close, none of us knew if he had won or not. It wasn’t until they announced him as the winner that I could really celebrate for him.  It was such a relief.  I struggle to even put the feeling into words. I was very sad not to be there in person with our daughters, but in hindsight I was such an emotional mess it was probably a good thing I wasn’t, in a stadium full of people!”

Jason – what do you eat in the build up to a race?

“Very much depends on the time of day I am competing. It’s nothing special, I have my normal meals. Breakfast is usually things like fruit, yogurt, granola, muesli, scrambled eggs. Lunch/dinners are usually meat, carbs (rice, pasta, potatoes etc), vegetables and snacks like cereal bar, nuts and raisins. I aim to eat 1 and a half hours before I start warming up and then plan the rest of meals around that.”

Jason – Just prior to a race, what do you do to focus on your performance in that race?

“In sport we talk about controlling the controllables and that’s what I focus on. I ignore anything else as that’s a distraction (other athletes, people in stadium etc) and think about the different elements of the race that I can influence.  Things like making sure I react to the gun and then split my arms hard and fast. Different little queues that allow me to execute my positions. The reality is I know if I get my execution right then the performance will come with it.”

Jason – what has given you greater satisfaction, winning a world championship or a Paralympic gold?

“Definitely a Paralympic gold, even though it is the same with regards to who you compete against. It is a bigger event, more hype and a better experience around the Paralympic Games.  It doesn’t get any better or bigger in the sport.”

Elise – What advice would you give to anyone that wants to do something more with their passion?

“Go for it! There will always be reasons not to. Time, finances, the energy it takes, but if you don’t try you will never know. I am trying to set that example for my girls. I would rather them see me try and fail than not try at all.”

Jason – in a non-competitive week – what is your normal training week?

“My normal training week consists of 6 days of training with a Sunday off. 5 of those days are usually longer tougher days and include drills, running sessions, strength sessions, circuits, core and abs. The other day is based more around recovery and mobility so things like stretching and yoga. The volume and intensity of sessions depends on the time of the year. Winter is higher volume and lower intensity and as I get closer to competition those shift.”

Jason - do you have any superstitions or something you do as a habit before a race?

“I don’t have any superstitions, I don’t really believe in them to be honest. My routine before a race doesn’t really change, so that would be my habit. I always say a prayer, I always eat at a similar time before and my warm-up is always the same.”

Jason – we know that you are a big Liverpool supporter. Has there been a particular Liverpool player you have looked up to and why?

“The player I have looked up to the most is Steven Gerrard. The 2 main reasons are his leadership skills and his loyalty to his club. It’s not just sport but it’s easy to get distracted with everything in the world, it’s harder to stay faithful and influence a generation that follows for good. I have a lot of respect for that.”

Elise – where is home in the United States?  How does it compare to Northern Ireland?

“I grew up in Utah. Life is very different in Northern Ireland, but I struggle to compare the two. When I lived in the States, I was young and single. I wonder what it would be like to transport the life I have now back home to the States. What would I be like as a wife and mother living in Utah again? Like anywhere there are thing you love, and things you don’t like about living there. Buy anywhere you go in the world it is about surrounding yourself with good people, and I have found some wonderful friends here, and I have my little family.  I miss home every day, but I have built a life here and I love it.”

Jason & Elise – What music do you listen to?

Elise – “I love musicals and am currently listening to the SIX studio album on loop. Saying that, neither of us get much say in what music plays in our house. The girls are the bosses, so we listen to a lot of Disney.”

Jason & Elise - What was the last movie you both watched together?

“We honestly can’t remember as most of the movies on are ones the girls want to watch. We are planning on going to the new James Bond.”

Jason, what is the next big race?

“Next is the World Championships in Kobe, Japan in the summer. Although everything is gearing towards the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.”

  • The question Jason couldn’t answer was, will he go onto win a 7th Gold in 2024?  We all wish him the very best in that pursuit.

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