Over the past few months we’ve been busy working away in the background trying to track down a whole host of writers to contribute to the Sunrise Medical blog. We’ve spoken with Paralympians, racing drivers, models, business owners and lots of other people and we think we have some really interesting, relevant and engaging articles lined up for you over the coming months. We like to refer to our team of writers as the Sunrise Medical Blog Squad and we thought it would be rude not to introduce some of them to you.
David Smith, or ‘Smithy’ (there were a lot of Davids at his school) has been an active contributor to the Sunrise Medical blog for a while now. His extensive experience of travelling with a powered wheelchair meant he could offer helpful updates to our article about travelling by aeroplane with a wheelchair and he has also written a really informative piece on his real passion, Boccia.
In fact, Boccia isn’t just David’s passion it’s also his job. The 29-year-old who currently lives in Swansea is a full time Boccia player for UK Boccia, and not just any Boccia player, he is the joint most successful British Boccia player in history, having earned four Paralympic medals across three games (gold at Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016 and a silver and bronze at London 2012). He is also currently the reigning Boccia World Champion and world number one in his sport.
David’s Boccia career began at school. He was educated at Treloar School, which he describes as ‘a fantastic place for a young person with a severe disability’. During his time here he was surrounded by opportunities and started getting a taste for independence, success and confidence. He says: “I competed in sports competitions for Athletics, Boccia, Table Cricket, Wheelchair Hockey, Wheelchair Football and Polybat. I performed at music concerts. I learnt to play the drums. And I also got my first fast electric wheelchair from Action for Kids – 12km/h felt so good for the first time!”.
During his time at Treloar David enjoyed considerable Boccia success, becoming the youngest ever British Boccia champion at the age of just 14 and then Boccia World Champion at the age of 18. At just 19-years-old he left school to embark on his first Paralympic Games in Beijing. He says: “The team gold not only defined my future for the next 12-years but also made my Freshers Week at uni pretty good too.”
For the next six years David would combine completing a degree in Aerospace Engineering at Swansea University (navigating around campus in his new Quickie Groove) with his Boccia commitments, as well as incorporating all the usual rites of passage that come with being a young adult, such as learning to drive.
David is originally from Eastleigh in Hampshire, the eldest of two siblings. He was diagnosed with Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy Quadriplegia when he was one. He says: “My early childhood was happy but fairly simple as my family weren’t well off. I remember getting my first electric wheelchair at Cedar School when I was three, but I think it was second-hand and only did 4km/h”. When visiting his home town, David can be found shopping in the Swan Centre or at the local leisure centre. He has since settled in Swansea, having completed his degree there, and recommends the attractive Worm’s Head in Rhossili, Swansea’s leisure centre and the 360 Café Bar as destinations for wheelchair users who are visiting the city.
When David’s not playing Boccia he can be found indulging his love for World War Two aircraft or spending time with his wife, Barbara, who David recently married. He says: “I met her in Poznan in Poland for a competition and subsequently drove 1,000 miles for a summer holiday romance that turned serious.”
As a full time wheelchair user David (who uses a Quickie Jive M as his day chair and has an Ottobock B400 for his Boccia chair) still thinks the UK has a long way to go in terms of making places accessible for people with disabilities. He says: “Compared to the rest of the world the UK is good, compared to the ideal there is still a long way to go”. He would like to see more accessible housing, better accessible trains and no post code lottery when it comes to social care and provision.
And, David can easily make comparisons with the rest of the world. He says: “Over the years I have visited lots of places, although mostly seen the inside of a bus or a sports hall. Trips to Spain, Portugal and other European countries are regular. Further afield trips to Hong Kong, Beijing, Rio and a few places in Canada and the US have been exciting!” But travelling hasn’t been without its mishaps. “I once went to the wrong airport by mistake and in my rush to get to the correct airport I left a bag and created a bomb scare! Thankfully I got my bag back after the trip but had to play in Portugal with brown shoes rather than trainers.”
David’s other frustrations are around the lack of recognition he gets, he says: “I’m more successful than Andy Murray but considerably less well looked after. I overcome that by continuing to win and hoping my time will come.”
Indecisive pedestrians are also a bug-bear, he says: “ I wish people realised I can only use drop kerbs and if you change direction, or can’t decide where to go, it’s a pain for me to avoid you and I want to run you over!”
But David, whose day generally comprises of gym or physio in the morning, followed by Boccia training in the afternoon, doesn’t let these annoyances get him down. He says: “I’m actually improving with my disability with age which is unheard of for CP.” And with his proudest achievements including four Paralympic medals across three games and receiving an MBE from Prince William, you can only think that there are lots more achievements to come for this successful Boccia player.
Quick fire round
What’s your earliest memory? My sister being born when I was 2.
Do you have any pets? Yes, two mice. Lucy and Cookie.
What might someone be surprised to know about you? I have a complex personality.
Favourite holiday destination? I don’t have a favourite but the last place I visited was Sa Coma in Majorca.
Last book you read: One of the Few, about a Canadian Battle of Britain pilot flying in a famous Polish squadron.
Last film you saw: I Feel Pretty.
Last thing you ate: Barbara’s Home-made burger.