He went in Beijing, he went in Rio, he went in Tokyo. David Smith is someone who has excelled at bocce for years. The Englishman with a blue and red mohawk haircut is hard to miss at competitions. It’s like an advertisement for a contest: you don’t have to hide. I know what I can do
Smith can do a lot. Para-boccia is about placing your balls from the wheelchair near the target white ball of your opponent. This requires a high level of tactics, accuracy and coordination. “I’m very good at creating opportunities where others don’t necessarily see them,” says the 32-year-old Briton. Due to cerebral palsy, he plays in class BC1.
When he throws, it’s almost always accurate, with the fewest balls possible and as many high scores as possible. In addition to his three gold medals at the Paralympics, his skills earned him ten gold medals at the World and European Championships; Several silver and bronze medals have been added to this proud record. This makes David Smith the most successful player in British bocce history.
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“I tried other sports at school, but I did my best in bocce,” Smith said, shrugging his shoulders. Boccia has developed into an “addiction” for him. “What I love about boccia most: there are no limits. There is always something new to discover and develop.” The sport made him a better person: “Boccia is a great game to find the best version of yourself.” The Briton has been playing boccia for 26 years. In recognition of his achievements, he was awarded the Order of Knighthood in 2016.
Bockia is becoming more and more popular among the general public
Smith is now a star in the UK. Media interest is great, schools invite the athlete to join them, people recognize him on the street. “It feels great to be honest. The fact that bocce is getting more and more popular with the public is great for this sport.” But he doesn’t want to put too much pressure on himself. “I’ve been pressured a lot in the past,” says David Smith. “But this year I haven’t had to prove anything to anyone.”
So he simply enjoyed the Paralympics in Tokyo, which wasn’t always easy. In the final, Smith was 0-2 behind after the first set. “Honestly, I wasn’t too nervous, I was too late. He explains it easily. After the first sentence he thought to himself: ‘Either you make it too easy for your opponent now, or you fight.'”
In the following sets of the final, David Smith successfully pushed his Malaysian opponent Zhou Wei Lun repeatedly for fouls. He won the final 4-2, becoming the first BC1 player to defend the Paralympic Games title.
With his second pillar as a lifestyle coach, the financial stress of having to win in Japan has also been eliminated. “I help people improve their health,” Smith says happily. The opportunity to do so arose out of the pandemic when he started thinking about his daily exercise routine.
There were other career options for Smith as well
“I was so frustrated at the time and almost gave up on boccia. Then I started working with a lifestyle coach and changing my diet.” Smith was so excited about the results that he now motivates and inspires others as well. “I am fitter now, I have a new focus and a new mindset. I want to convey that.”
There could have been other career alternatives for the Briton, as he had previously studied aeronautical engineering at Swansea. But he doesn’t want to go down that path any longer. “I’ve never felt so welcome in the world of technology.”
As a person with a disability, he has experienced discrimination, “and if that is the case at university when looking for an internship, I have no hope of getting a paid job.” He has no problem turning his back on space technology and making more money by helping people. “I see myself as someone who deserves something and I want to be wanted,” says David Smith.
But Smith is now focused on the European Championships in Boca, which begins in Spain on November 22. “I think it will be fun. Some athletes may have problems because it is so soon after the Paralympic Games.” Smith himself wants to start relatively quietly in emerging markets, even if, of course, he is one of the candidates. “We will see what happens. It will be a great competition at the end of the year.”
Is he thinking of quitting after so many competitions? Or will he see himself at the Paralympic Games in Paris in 2024? “Honestly, I’ll see myself in Australia in 2032,” says David Smith, laughing. “I’ve never been there before and would like to go there.”
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