Former Eastleigh resident David Smith MBE and Stephen McGuire have both been named in Great Britain’s 10-strong boccia squad for the BISFed 2018 World Boccia Championships that take place at Exhibition Centre Liverpool from 12-18 August.
Fresh from winning two gold medals at the Montreal Boccia World Open, Scotland’s McGuire is BC4 world number one and will be aiming to defend his individual. He has also revealed that he believes Great Britain can ‘top the medal table’ at the World Championships in Liverpool in August:
‘It will be incredibly tough, we will need to keep our discipline and focus but we have the athletes to do it. Britain has the strongest unity I have witnessed over my ten years and counting of being involved in the squad. We push each other across every classification on a daily basis and I believe this has led to our success over the past few seasons.’
Smith, who lives in Swansea, can boast four Paralympics medals including individual gold from Rio in 2016. He added European Champion to his long list of titles in 2017.
They will be joined by five other Paralympians Claire Taggart (Larne, Northern Ireland), Jamie McCowan (South Ayrshire), Patrick Wilson (Edinburgh)) Jess Hunter (Staines, Middlesex) and Evie Edwards (Elmsett, Suffolk).
New faces in the squad complete the line-up. Swansea’s Ricky Stevenson impressed selectors at the 2017 UK Championships where he pushed his mentor David Smith all the way in two close matches. He made his international debut in the 2018 Regional Open Madrid.
Will Hipwell (Papworth Everard, Cambs) made his international debut in 2017 while Louis Saunders (Bognor Regis, Sussex) is the youngest player on squad. At 16, he is currently juggling his training with GCSE studies.
Helen Nicholls, Boccia UK’s recently appointed Performance Director, said:
‘The squad is approaching the event with high hopes and confidence. While the line-up includes previous Paralympic and World medallists such as David Smith MBE and Stephen McGuire, it also contains athletes looking to make their mark and deliver significant performances on the world stage, demonstrating a real strength in depth across the four classifications.
‘The British team will face significant international challenge in its mission to leave Liverpool with medals and titles however each player selected has demonstrated the dedication, commitment and skill required to put themselves in the place where they can challenge for a position on the podium, which is ultimately what elite sport is all about. The next eight weeks will be about ensuring each selected player can enter the Championships with the best possible preparation to deliver what they are capable of when it really matters.’
The Brits will be joined by around 180 other athletes from 32 nations from right around the globe. They will descend on Liverpool to battle it out for World titles as well as ranking points ahead of the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.
David grew up in Eastleigh and had his first taste of the sport aged six. In 2003 he became the youngest ever British Boccia Champion, beating the-then GB captain in competition. He has since gone on to become Britain’s joint most decorated British boccia player in history.
He made his Paralympic Games debut in Beijing 2008 where he won gold as part of the BC1/BC2 team. Four years later at London 2012, he claimed silver individually and a team bronze. He went on to improve his individual performance at Rio 2016 where he clinched the gold.
He is now determined to become World Champion, a title he won in 2014 but lost again in 2016 when he had to settle for the bronze. Recent results augur well – he became European Champion in 2017.
He now lives in Swansea with his fiancé Barbara, having moved there to study Aerospace Engineering. He is also a keen drummer.