News Release

Through Clouds and Sunshine: Conversations with Irish Paralympian Jason Smyth and his wife Elise

On this week’s episode of Hope Helps, five-times gold medal-winning Paralympian Jason Smyth and his wife, Elise, guide host Charly Burridge-Jones through the journey of their relationship. Together they have grown through the challenging balance of parenthood and Paralympic success.

Jason and Elise Smyth© 2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Elise and Jason first met in Utah after being set up by a relative. After their marriage they moved to Florida and then the UK. Ten years after meeting, they eventually settled in Northern Ireland where they currently raise their two young daughters.

At age eight, Jason was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, which causes blindness. He describes his vision as “if somebody takes a really bad picture that’s extremely blurry, and you can kind of see outlines of colours.”

Despite this diagnosis, a schoolteacher recognised his natural athleticism and encouraged him to start training at an athletics club during his teenage years.

Jason is the world’s fastest Paralympic athlete; he has won five gold medals in the Paralympic games and holds the world records for the 100- and 200-metre sprints.

As a father with young children, it’s challenging to meet the basic requirements: eating, sleeping, and training. Reflecting on his approach to each race, he says that it’s not about beating other people, it’s about beating yourself. He explains, “What everybody else does, you can’t influence…the moment that you get distracted [is]… the moment that you are losing something within your own self, your own race or your own preparation.”

Paralympic athlete Jason Smyth© 2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

As a father with young children, it’s challenging to meet the basic requirements: eating, sleeping, and training. Reflecting on his approach to each race, he says that it’s not about beating other people, it’s about beating yourself.

He explains, “What everybody else does, you can’t influence…the moment that you get distracted [is]… the moment that you are losing something within your own self, your own race or your own preparation.”

Originally from Utah, Elise has travelled 5000 miles to live in Northern Ireland. She has been able to experience a sense of community through the women’s organisation [Relief Society] of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

These good, supportive women bring her out of her shell and provide great support when Jason is away training. Although she is far from her homeland, she has found a home on the island of Ireland.

Elise Smyth© 2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Elise is a stay-at-home mother and spends many long hours raising two daughters. She admits that it is a challenge to find time for herself, but balance is possible. The world is chaotic, but she encourages herself to count her blessings and move forward because the next day will be better. She says, “Some days are scary, but each day’s worth living whether it has clouds or sunshine.”

Together, Jason and Elise find ways to strengthen each other. With children and an athletic career, it can be difficult to always find balance. They try to set aside time as a couple, but Covid has made ordinary date nights much more difficult. Marriage is not always easy, but if both people are willing to find solutions and answers, there is no challenge that they cannot overcome

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