DAVID Smith admits it will be a tough task to become a triple individual Paralympic champion, but believes he is on track with 100 days to go to Paris.

Great Britain’s three-time gold medal winner – he also picked up a team gold at his first Games in Beijing in 2008 – will be chasing a hat-trick of successive individual BC1 titles at the Games in France this summer.

But as the calendar landmark is reached, Smith believes both he, and the sport of boccia itself, are in a good place.

“It is never easy to win and I have learnt to accept that now,” says Smith, who has just returned from winning BC1/2 team gold for GB at the Lahti Challenger in Finland.

“As my coach, Glynn Tromans, is constantly reminding me, no-one should ever take winning for granted.

“It’s competitive sport and you never quite know what people are going to bring on the day. I don’t worry too much about winning these days, I just try and play as well as I can and hope that should be good enough and if it’s not, then good luck to the other person.

“But I feel I have more strings to my bow than before and so, hopefully, everything should fall into place.”

Smith – who intends to pay his now regular visit to his hairdresser before Paris in order to dye his hair in his customary red, white and blue – believes he has rediscovered his zest for the sport in recent times.

The 35-year-old won individual gold in both Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and then again in Tokyo at the delayed 2020 Games, but felt he was growing stale until he made lifestyle changes to improve his diet, fitness and mental approach.

“Having changed pretty much everything, I actually found the sport became easier again and I was enjoying it. I felt healthier, more energetic and younger.

“I train less, but I still have the quality of training and as I get older I think that approach is more sustainable.”

Smith’s bid for individual gold in Paris, will be one of 11 boccia gold medals up for grabs at the South Paris Arena, contested by 124 athletes, following the opening ceremony in the French capital on August 28.

In all, around 4,400 athletes from around the world will compete across 22 sports and contest a total of 549 gold medals.

As well as competing for individual gold, Smith is also making team honours with Great Britain a big part of his ambitions for Paris. He won in Finland this month alongside Claire Taggart and Kayleigh Haggo.

“The team event has always been a strong passion of mine,” adds the man who won team gold in 2008 and also team bronze four years later in London.

“The team medal was my first at a Paralympics, so it’s kind of where I learned my craft. Our team then went into a bit of a transition, so it’s always been a strong goal of mine to return us to where we were.”

Smith is also optimistic that boccia can use the Games as a vehicle to further promote and popularise the sport, particularly through increased TV coverage and clips across social media.

“A Paralympics back in Europe is another great opportunity for the sport. We had good crowds on London in 2012, but it was all a little too regimented and we maybe didn’t do enough to get new people interested in the sport, people who had perhaps never even heard of it.

“The TV coverage was good in Tokyo and hopefully we can build on that and Paris can bring lots of new audiences.”

Over the next 100 days, Smith will fine tune his game by competing at the Sao Paulo 2024 World Boccia Cup in Brazil at the end of May, before moving on to Portugal and the Povao de Varzim 2024 World Boccia Cup in July.

Then, it’s the Paralympic Games in Paris, where boccia titles will be decided between August 29 and September 5.

“The sport is definitely becoming more global as well as more competitive,” says Smith, who will compete at his fifth Games.

“Countries like Indonesia are coming up first, South Korea are really well organised, the same with Japan, and the sport has always been strong in places like Portugal and Brazil.

“In terms of my rivals, there will be all the usual suspects, but there are new challengers like Muhammad Syafa, who I think could do quite a lot in Paris.

“So, it’s exciting times and there’s a lot to look forward to. But my focus has always been to look at the next tournament and try not to think too far ahead.

“I know what I need to do – get myself back to number one in the world, make sure the team is in a good spot, playing well and being consistent – and then I can give Paris a good go.”

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