World and Paralympic Boccia Champion, David, graduated with an MEng in Aerospace Engineering from Swansea University in 2014.    

What brought you to Swansea University? 

I wanted to study aerospace engineering and the staff around the course, the general atmosphere, and the beach were the main draw.   

What are your favourite memories of studying in Swansea? 

The study trips that involved flying like the flying lab at Cranfield or flying around the Gower.  

David Smith holding a gold medal

How did you balance the demands of the degree with your international Boccia career? 

Initially, I studied full time as my playing career was quite low in demand. However, with the rapid development of international Boccia and with London 2012 on the horizon it became necessary to defer parts of my degree. The University was very accommodating and did everything they could to support me, even allowing me to stay in halls so I could continue training through the summer.  

How did you get started in Boccia? 

I did it at primary school because it was a special needs school and I first competed when I was six at a competition at Stoke Mandeville.  

For those of us that don’t know anything about BocciaWhat’s it all about?  

Boccia is a bowl type game for people with physical disabilities (although it’s a popular European garden game too). Similar to Boule we play with soft leather balls on a hard, indoor badminton-sized court. There is an app now called Boccia Battle, it is very realistic and gives a good idea of what the sport is about 

You’ve gone on to compete at various Paralympics around the world. How does it feel to represent your country internationally? 

I feel very privileged and proud to be part of Boccia UK and to represent my country and hearing the National Anthem most places I go to is very satisfying. Also being able to entertain and play my best stuff in front of spectators is very rewarding. 

How did it feel to win your first Paralympic gold? 

It was very joyful and emotional because that was in the team event, so it wasn't just a win for me it was a win for my friends/teammates too. My first Gold was just before I started Freshers' week in Swansea so celebrating that wasn't difficult! 

You’re the World and Olympic champion. You’re the most successful British Boccia player in history. What’s next? 

Technically I'm Paralympic champion, whilst there might not seem a massive difference, in certain aspects of the culture, it is actually quite profound. I'm proud to be a Paralympian rather than an Olympian. I'm actually joint most successful British player alongside Nigel Murray MBE, so my aim is to set a new record and be the first ever BC1 player to defend a Paralympic title. 

You were honoured with an MBE for your achievements. How did it feel to go to the Palace to collect it? 

Collecting the MBE gave me a lot of pride personally. I had my parents and my sports assistant with me; it was very special being able to take my parents into Buckingham Palace.  

When you’re not playing Boccia, what do you do with your free time? 

We all have lots of free time at the moment! However, I'm usually so busy I'm enjoying just relaxing at home. Or spending time with friends and family.  

What advice would you have for anyone considering studying at Swansea? 

My advice would be why not? If you live in England, it's far enough away to avoid parents checking up on you! You have beautiful scenery at your fingertips and the people are very warm and friendly.