Editor’s note: Each sport on the Rio 2016 Paralympic programme will have a dedicated week of featured content published on paralympic.org. Every week a new sport will be featured and the series will run until September’s Games, helping the public understand more about the 22 sports being contested in Rio.
Great Britain’s David Smith is among the favourites for gold in September’s Paralympic Games. But following the 2016 Boccia International Sports Federation (BISFed) World Individual Championships, which concluded 26 March, Smith will have stiff competition.
At the London 2012 Games, Smith lost to Thailand’s Pattaya Tadtong in the finals of the BC1 individual event. The two met again recently in Beijing, China, at the World Championships. Once again, Smith could not cope with Tadtong, who won 8-0 and went on to win the individual world title. Smith however left Beijing with the individual bronze medal and has maintained his No. 2 world ranking status, as the deadline for athletes to achieve performances and secure qualification slots for their countries is 30 April.
“I hope I can win two medals [one] for myself and [another for] the team,” Smith said about his expectations for Rio 2016. “I also hope the squad does well.”
Smith helped Team GB take bronze at London 2012 in the BC1-2 team event. Again, Great Britain’s rival will be the defending Paralympic champion Thai team, whom they are ranked behind currently at No. 2.
Both Thailand and Great Britain have qualified already for the team event at Rio 2016, and a rematch is also expected in September.
Smith said his biggest fear is not winning a medal at Rio 2016.
“I stand to lose 50 per cent of my funding and the squad likewise,” Smith explained. “We are not fortunate to have big sponsorships or recognition in boccia so we rely solely on [United Kingdom] sport and National Lottery funding.”
He said that funding is given on a results basis.
“So the pressure is on,” Smith said.
Smith began playing boccia while in primary school at age 6, and it took time for him to gain the confidence and realise his talent in the sport.
“It took me a while to fall in love with it as initially … I was rubbish,” he said. “I didn't win an end for almost five years. To be honest, representing GB wasn't in my psyche.”
Smith’s motivation to play was increased after he was told he “was too disabled to be good at sport.”
But his expectations were raised while in secondary school.
“They took disability sport seriously and I was given countless opportunities to achieve,” Smith said. “Eventually, I had my first taste of success in boccia and I started enjoying it.”
He has tasted success at the international levels, with his first Paralympic gold medal coming from Beijing 2008 in the team event. Needless to say, a Paralympic title has been long overdue.
Smith also manages the Swansea Boccia club and encourages others to give the sport a try.
“The best thing about [boccia] is that it levels the playing-field, so that if you’re good, you can beat opponents of all abilities,” Smith said. “It also means you can compete at the top level on almost equal terms with your competitors… a set of balls is all you really need to start.”
Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).
The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.
Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.