LONDON - Oscar Pistorius on Saturday began the defence of his three sprint titles with a bang, breaking the world record in the T44 200m, as Irish runner Jason Smyth became the fastest Paralympian in history over 100m.
Pistorius, who earlier this month became the first double-amputee to compete in the Olympics, stormed to victory in his heat at the Olympic Stadium in east London, clocking a new best of 21.30sec.
The 25-year-old said he was happy with the time — and the reception from the 80,000-strong crowd — but again played down expectations that he would complete the sprint clean-sweep.
"I've done a world record tonight, so we'll see what happens, but the 100m isn't really my event," he told reporters.
Pistorius, nicknamed the "Blade Runner" because of his carbon fibre prostheses, will face Beijing silver medallist Jim Bob Bizzell, as well as his long-standing rival Jerome Singleton, both of the United States.
The race had been billed as the highlight of the evening's programme, with Pistorius' participation in the 400m heats and 4x400m relay final at the Olympics making him the most high-profile athlete at the Games.
But Irish sprinter Jason Smyth gave a stunning performance in the T13 100m, streaking to victory in 10.46sec, breaking the previous world best of 10.54sec that he set in qualifying on Friday night.
The 25-year-old, who is visually impaired and like Pistorius also competes in non-disabled races, trains with US sprint star Tyson Gay in Florida and has said it is possible to have a Paralympian run under 10sec in the straight sprint.
He has run 10.22sec — 0.27sec quicker than the non-disabled women's 100m record set by Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988 -- although his time has not been recognised by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
There was more cheer for Ireland in the T37 category for athletes with cerebral palsy, as Michael McKillop retained his 800m title from Beijing in a new world record of 1min 57.22sec.
Another record tumbled in the men's T38 100m as Australia's Evan O'Hanlon — once voted one of his country's most eligible bachelors by a fashion magazine — lowered the previous best by 0.09sec to defend his Beijing gold in 10.79sec.
Cuba's Yunidis Castillo also retained her T46 200m title in a new world best.