9 August 2018

Smith seeks hat-trick of titles at World Boccia Championships

Paralympic champion David Smith will not be satisfied with anything less than gold when he headlines the World Boccia Championships in Liverpool next week.

Ranked number one in the world in the BC1 category, the 29-year-old is looking forward to having home advantage at the event, which is set to attract 190 players from 33 countries.

Smith went the entire season unbeaten last year as he followed up his gold medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympics by claiming his third European Championship individual title.

And while he expects to be pushed all the way by his rivals, he admits he is only focused on making it a hat-trick of individual world gold medals at Liverpool’s Exhibition Centre.

“I’m aiming to win it and for me I just want to turn up and do the job,” he said. “I’m in really good form so I have no worries, I just have to make sure the process is right.

“In the BC1s, I have quite a few rivals. There’s Mikhail Gutnik from Russia and Witsanu Huadpradit from Thailand, who I would consider the second best in the world.

“His ranking doesn’t necessarily reflect that at the minute because he didn’t go to the Paralympics and then you’ve got Dan Perez from Holland, who was in my final in 2016.

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I’m aiming to win it and for me I just want to turn up and do the job.

Paralympic champion David Smith

“He’s fallen off a bit and isn’t as strong as he used to be, so he might struggle to get into the semi-finals depending on who he plays against, but there are quite a few in my class that are potentially going to push me.”

Boccia, which has no Olympic counterpart, is designed for athletes with conditions like severe cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy which affects all four limbs.

A self-proclaimed rockstar in the sport, Smith learned basic boccia skills when he was six years old before really flourishing when he began receiving coaching at Treloar School.

He went on to become the youngster ever player to win the British Boccia Championships at the age of 14, but Smith pinpoints the World Championships in 2010 as the turning point in his career.

David Smith in action at London 2012

“When the world champs came in 2010 I came sixth and the team also came sixth and it was a bit of a wake-up call that we were being left behind,” he said.

“At that point for me, I had to either prioritise Boccia over my degree and life or continue with the more rockstar lifestyle and not medal at London 2012.

“I started to realise that I missed a massive opportunity in Beijing for the individuals having entered it as world champion, although I was probably a bit young at the time.

“I had also lost my coach, so Beijing was quite messy for me and I did well to pick myself up for the team and help us get over the line, so London was about putting those wrongs right.

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At that point for me, I had to either prioritise Boccia over my degree and life or continue with the more rockstar lifestyle...

David Smith

“I had to make sure I had the right preparation, so I went into London with a fair crack, and I was a bit unfortunate not to win it, but I was happy with the silver.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing and now I think I should have won that, but the silver was good enough at the time and meant I could focus on Rio to try and go one better, which I did.”

And finishing top of the podium in Liverpool will be the first part of a two-year plan for Smith, who has previously revealed that he will retire from the sport after Tokyo 2020.

“I’ve already announced that I’m going to retire after Tokyo 2020 so unless the world moves quite considerably in that time I think I’ll be doing that,” Smith added.

“If I achieve what I want to achieve in the next two years then there is not much more boccia can do for me in terms of my progression as a person.”

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