world : Smith expects 'toughest tournament' at Paralympics

world : Smith expects 'toughest tournament' at Paralympics
world : Smith expects 'toughest tournament' at Paralympics

Wednesday 12 June 2024 10:53 PM

Nafeza 2 world - Three-time Paralympic boccia champion David Smith said he is ready for his "toughest tournament ever" as his selection for a fifth Games was confirmed.

The 35-year-old from Swansea is part of a five-strong British team for Paris 2024.

Smith - known for his eye-catching Games hairstyles - has won individual BC1 gold at the last two Paralympics.

But he admits his era of dominance in the sport could be over.

"At the moment I'm thinking if I can pick up a medal or two, I'll be doing well," he tells BBC Sport Wales.

"Individually this is probably going to be the toughest tournament I've ever had in terms of the threats for the title. So I'm not taking anything for granted.

"There's probably six athletes in the BC1s now who could all realistically win it. That's exciting. It's good for the sport

"It was a crazy period of dominance for me. But things have levelled off now.

"All good things come to an end at some point but as long as I'm still competitive I'll continue to keep pushing and get the results I can."

Smith's success in boccia began with Paralympic gold in the BC1/BC2 mixed team event at Beijing 2008.

He then won five medals in the next four Games - along with a hatful of world and European titles - that have elevated him to Britain's most decorated boccia player of all time.

But it is success with his team that really drives him now.

"We've got a really good team building," he continues.

"That probably is the thing that keeps me in it more than anything else actually.

"Obviously, I'm Paralympic champion, Claire [Taggart] is world champion and Kayleigh [Haggo] is a brand new athlete who's only been playing the sport since 2022.

"But her high-performance behaviours from athletics have rubbed off and she's come into boccia like a duck to water.

"The three of us have a really good relationship together and it's enjoyable to play on court. We're currently in the best form I've ever known our team to be in and I've been playing in the team for a very, very long time.

"So it's exciting we could potentially be back in the position where I remember the team being back in 2008. I want to get back to there.

"Once I do that, then maybe that might be the time I call it a day."

So, with preparations running smoothly on the court, what is the only thing left for Smith to decide on?

The hairstyle to go for the Games in Paris.

"That always comes up!" he laughs.

"We're still plotting that one. I've got a couple of ideas. We're working through with the hairdressers.

"I'm also trying to get my team-mates on board to see if they would sink to that. But Kayleigh's getting married in October so she's very reluctant to do something crazy with her hair!

"To be fair, it's more a tradition than anything else. [Former team-mate] Nigel [Murray], when I was very young, told me it was team tradition that we died our hair for a Paralympic Games and I was stupid enough to believe him!

"Then we won gold in Beijing and I felt I had to keep doing it because it's my lucky charm.

"That's why I've done it. It has helped get recognition, it's helped increase the profile of the sport."

The Paralympics run from 28 August to 8 September in Paris.

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