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Paralympics Tokyo 2020: Gravesend's JohnBoy Smith sets personal best to finish 10th


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Gravesend’s JohnBoy Smith grasped his Paralympic chance with two hands - in more ways than one.

The Kent wheelchair racer finished 10th on Paralympic debut in the T54 marathon, one of the final events of the Games, in a season’s best time of 1:32:25.

Gravesend's JohnBoy Smith. Picture: Kat Skelton
Gravesend's JohnBoy Smith. Picture: Kat Skelton

The 31-year-old was proud to complete the technical 42km course in wet conditions, particularly given his glove broke in the early moments amid various technical issues.

“The first 800 metres on the track was great, I think it was a personal best and I smashed it,” said Smith.

“We got to the top of the ramp, I put a kick in to stay with the leading pack and instantly my right glove broke in two.

“Then my sandpaper for my grip came off two minutes after and there was something going on with my left push rim. I think I've broken my right rib too, I got shunted on one of the turns.

“That was all in the first 12 miles, but it was good, I enjoyed it.

“I came out here very confident, it’s the leanest and the strongest I’ve been. Sometimes it doesn’t go right. It was a fantastic course and not as hard as I expected.”

It was the culmination of a long journey in disability sport for Smith, who started out as a powerlifter before switching to javelin, shot put and discus in 2013.

He was world number one in the F55 javelin but saw it scratched from the programme for Rio 2016, which heralded a switch to wheelchair racing.

Things are never dull when Smith is around with his Tokyo chance coming 18 months after he severed his own finger off in a domestic accident.

“Back in August last year, I cut my finger off on a box cutter,” he said.

“I was cutting a cable tie, I completely sheared my finger off. There is a scar on my right index finger.

“I picked it up myself, wrapped it in a towel, had it stitched back on again and six or seven weeks later I was in the London Marathon and got a flat tyre.

“The doctor told me to take a year out, because I severed everything and I was competing a few weeks later. Not the best thing I could have done but I’m still here, cracking on with it.”

Smith was joined in the race by legendary six-time Paralympic champion David Weir, who finished fifth.

He was first spotted as a wheelchair racer by Weir’s long-time coach Jenny Archer and with his team-mate contemplating retirement, Smith paid tribute to the ParalympicsGB star’s legacy in the sport.

“The things David Weir has done in his lifetime is unachievable for anyone else,” he said.

“In my opinion he should be Sir David Weir and there should be a statue of him somewhere, that’s the honest truth.

“He came from nothing and he’s at the top. It’s phenomenal what the man’s done.

“If this is his last Games, if he doesn’t go to the Commonwealths, what a legacy. The things he’s done, you can’t top that.”

Sainsbury’s is a proud supporter of ParalympicsGB and a champion of inclusive sport for all. Sainsbury’s commitment to helping customers to eat better has been at the heart of what we do since 1869. For more information on Sainsbury’s visit www.sainsburys.co.uk/ and https://paralympics.org.uk/

Read more: All the latest sports news in Kent

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