Via Inside the Games
Britain’s Paralympic champion boccia star David Smith is expecting to face greater competition from Asian rivals as the standard of the sport rises in the build-up to Tokyo 2020.
Smith, a four-time medallist who claimed team gold at Beijing 2008 before individual silver and team bronze on home turf at London 2012, shocked world champion and number one ranked Pattaya Tadtong of Thailand at the quarter-final stage in Rio.
He then defeated Dutch opponent Daniel Perez in the final.
But the 27-year-old realised that greater success brings greater expectations.
“Medals mean funding, that’s quite a lot of pressure,” he said in an interview published on the International Paralympic Committee website.
“The main thing she tells me is to focus on myself, not worry about anything else, try not to let the pressure, and the fact that I’m normally a breadwinner, not let that get to me.
“And now the sport is getting more and more difficult.”
South Korea and Thailand have led huge improvement in the sport from across Asia in recent years.
“They’ve taken it on another level, across all the categories,” Smith added.
“The level is going up, the standard going up.”
After a “well-earned rest” since his Brazilian exploits in September, the Briton is now in training for the 2017 season.
His biggest challenge is expected to be the Boccia International Sports Federation European Championships in Povoa, Portugal.
Nigel Murray MBE and Jacob Thomas have both retired from international boccia after glittering careers.
Nigel’s introduction to boccia came when he attended a disability sports taster day through his former work supporting adults with physical impairments at a social services day centre.
Early sporting success came in 1999 when he won national and British individual titles. He made his Paralympic debut one year later in Sydney where he won gold in the individual BC2 event.
He narrowly missed out on a podium place at Athens 2004, but at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games Nigel won silver in the individual BC2 event and gold in the BC1/BC2 team event, where he played alongside Dan Bentley, David Smith and Zoe Robinson.
At London 2012, the BC1/BC2 team faced tough competition to defend their Paralympic title but succeeded in winning bronze. Nigel also placed 7th in the individual BC2.
To date, Nigel has been named British Champion 10 times and crowned National Champion on 13 occasions.
In the 2013 New Year’s Honours, Nigel was awarded a MBE for services to boccia. This recognised not only his performances but his role as an ambassador for the sport both across the UK and in his local community. He has been supported throughout his journey by his partner Sylvia Taylor who has been a rock for him every step of the way.
Performance Director Matt Hammond said “Nigel’s record speaks for itself and he will be a great loss to the Programme. As well as his individual achievements he has been a tremendous team player and has been instrumental in bringing through new talent, taking them under his wing and watching them flourish. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”
Jacob, the current British BC3 Champion, has announced his retirement from International Boccia after first coming to prominence back in 2009 when he switched classifications from BC4 to BC3.
Jacob began 2016 as the BISFed World Number One, and finished it by brilliantly regaining the British title that he first won back in 2010.
The positive impact that he, in partnership with his father and Performance Assistant Mike, has had on the BC3 classification and the wider sport in the UK is immeasurable.
His career has been fantastic and was full of drive, ambition and high attainment. Jacob has made seven consecutive British Championship BC3 finals (with four wins) from 2010 to 2016; he has had wins on the international stage and medals at European, World and World Open levels. He became a Paralympian at the London Games in 2012 but the highlight may have been the 2014 World Championships in Beijing where he achieved a silver medal as part of the British Pair and a bronze medal in the Individual event. Winning the European Cup in Barcelona in 2015 was also a career high.
BC3 Coach Glynn Tromans, who has worked closely with Jacob since 2009 said “Jacob will be proud of his achievements, the friendships he made around the world and for the positive impact he has had on his team mates. Jacob will be remembered for all the influential things he did as part of the GB squad, for years of hard work, dedication, progress and success. We all wish him and Mike a very happy retirement.”
Via GB Boccia
Via the Daily Record
World boccia champion Stephen McGuire expects a ‘carnival’ atmosphere when the Paralympic Games start in Rio in September.
The Hamilton ace is part of a 10-strong boccia team that was announced by the British Paralympic Association (BPA), and although he has known for some time that he was heading to Rio, McGuire (32) admits the excitement is building.
“I knew three weeks before, because they need to leave room for appeals and things like that, but it has been rubber-stamped and that’s great to know,” said Stephen.
“It does increase the excitement. It has been an interesting week, as I got the news and I was straight down to London, where we heard a lot of inspirational and motivational speeches.
“We’re part of a wider team and it’s amazing. There were a lot of Scots there, including Gordon Reid who just won the wheelchair tennis at Wimbledon.
“When one person wins a medal the momentum grows and the camaraderie is amazing. There is that bond.
“When we go to play abroad as Team GB there are 10 of us, but there are over 200 athletes this time.”
Stephen anticipates some fierce competition in boccia, which runs from September 10-16 (the Paralympics runs from September 7-18), and is eager to get going.
“I’m looking forward to the atmosphere; London 2012 was pretty traditional and in my head at least Rio is going to be a carnival. I’m looking forward to the crowds, the atmosphere, and it will be great to be part of it.
“Boccia is really big over in Brazil, we’re going to be playing in a 10,000 all-seater stadium, and I’m told it will be full. I hope we get to play them, actually, because they’re really good.”
Reigning BC4 World champion and pairs BC4 European Pairs champion McGuire is confident of doing well in Rio, and is pleased with what he has accomplished thus far.
He said: “I think you have to be confident when you go into something like this.
“Personally, I’ve done very well this year; I’ve won the World Championship and the Czech Open, and I took bronze from the World Open in Portugal, so there will be chances there.
“This is my second Paralympic Games, and to be honest there is no greater privilege than to represent Great Britain.
“When I started out, my dream was to get to a Paralympic Games, but this is my second, and I’ve won medals at the highest level.
“At London 2012 I was so close to a Paralympics medal, and that’s what keeps me going, so hopefully this time I can achieve it.”
Team leader Matt Hammond said: “The team is as strong as it has ever been and these athletes have been pushed throughout the qualifications period to deliver the performance needed to secure their place.”
Via the Daily Record