Paralympic Boccia champion David explains his winning ways to University OT students

31 Jul 2023

One of Great Britain’s most successful Paralympians passed on some of his winning wisdom to Occupational Therapy (OT) and Physiotherapy students at the University of Winchester.

David Smith OBE who has won gold in Boccia at three Paralympics spoke about his life and then gave students a masterclass in his sport when he visited the campus on Tuesday.

Boccia, which is similar to bowls but uses soft leather balls, is one of the biggest sports in the Paralympics.

The sport’s name derives from the Latin word for boss and David is certainly the boss when it comes to Boccia having won a team gold at the Beijing and individual golds at the Rio and Tokyo Games. He is the most decorated British boccia player and carried the GB flag at the Tokyo 2020 closing ceremony.

Aged 32 he has plenty of years left in the sport and has his eyes set on a fourth gold in Paris next year.

David, who grew up in Eastleigh, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of one. He first played boccia at Cedar School in Southampton, but it wasn’t until he moved to Treloar School near Alton that he got to grips with the sport and he became the youngest ever British Boccia Champion at the age of 14.

“Treloar’s unlocked my potential,” said David. “Boccia has given me the opportunity to travel the world.”

David now lives in Swansea where he studied aerospace engineering at the city’s university.

He’s building a ‘boccia community’ in Swansea and its ambition to see boccia played in every primary school, secondary school, college and university in the UK.

“Boccia is a worldwide sport and is not just a game for disabled people - it’s a game everyone can play on equal terms.”

David pointed out that in Portugal many of the top football clubs have an associated boccia club and in Tokyo there’s a TV channel devoted to the game.

After his inspiring presentation, David put the students through their boccia paces in the Sports Hall. Competitive instincts were soon unleashed as the ‘Blues’ and the ‘Reds’ battled it out under David’s expert eye.

Tai Frater, Senior Lecturer Practice Education and Digital Health at the University said: ““It was brilliant to be able to welcome David to Winchester to tell us more about his fascinating journey and introduce our students to the wonderful game of boccia. 

“The students were able to learn first-hand from David’s experiences and reflect on the importance of inclusion and participation in sport and leisure activities.  They also had great fun battling it out on the boccia court and seeing for themselves what a great game this is.”

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