Sale wheelchair racer’s trip from obscurity to National Paralympic Day dreamworld

Sale’s John Smith admits switching sports was always going to be a risk, but the wheelchair racer has no regrets after making his Olympic Stadium debut on Sunday.

Smith is new to wheelchair racing, having moved over from seated throwing only this season after competing in shot put, javelin and discus.

But when he decided he wanted to make the switch onto the track, Smith tracked down Paralympics legend David Weir and has been making superb progress.

Competing in London alongside some of para-sport’s heavyweights – including Jonnie Peacock and Richard Whitehead – as part of National Paralympic Day, Smith clocked 3:32.46 minutes in the T54 1500m in front of a raucous 20,000-strong crowd.

That time was good enough to finish eighth behind, amongst others, his now training partner Weir, and Smith insists the sky’s the limit with his personal best times tumbling over the last year.

“I tried to keep up but these guys are in a different league,” he said. “Considering the wet conditions it was pretty good though.

“In one season I’ve gone from not being able to push in a straight line to competing with these guys at the Olympic Stadium. It’s brilliant, and it’s my dream come true.

“My training has been so good, that I could go anywhere in the next year. I’ve pretty much halved my personal best in 12 months.

“The World Championships in October might be a bit soon, but the Paralympics at Rio are the goal. The way I’m progressing it might just happen.

“National Paralympic Day does so much for the sport. Before London 2012, I don’t think Paralympics was really recognised as a sport, whereas now it’s on the same level. 

“The crowd were unbelievable. The biggest I’ve performed in front of before is three or four hundred, and then I come to this.”

National Paralympic Day is generously supported by Spirit of 2012. Find out more at   

Image courtesy of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park via YouTube, with thanks.

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