Britain’s David Smith was given a standing ovation at the boccia gold medal final on Saturday – and that was before the 23-year-old had even thrown a ball. A sell-out crowd screamed their appreciation for the competitors, some of the most severely disabled athletes competing at these Games, as a tense contest unfolded in a sport best compared to boules or petanque.
The final had been billed as a grudge match, a chance to make amends for the 18-1 battering Thailand had inflicted on defending champions Britain in the team BC1-2 semi-final. Both Smith and his opponent, Pattaya Tadtong, had played in that match, but the Briton was determined to put aside any sense of pressure from that defeat, “baggage” as he put it.
Smith had been tipped with a good chance to come away with the gold but in the event Tadtong, a 2004 bronze medallist, proved just too powerful for him, executing a comprehensive 7-0 defeat (2-0, 1-0, 3-0, 1-0) over four ends. Still the aerospace engineering student refused to be downbeat. “Hey, I got a silver medal and I played my best at a Paralympics for once,” he said referencing his 14th place finish in the individual competition in Beijing four years ago. “I’ve rectified a few things with this one … I’m chuffed to bits to be honest. I played a good match and I gave it my best shot I think, I executed really well so I’m happy with that. It’s easy to focus on the reward and not the performance.”