It’s not often that shoppers can learn about a new sport in-store, but thanks to Sainsbury’s partnership with ParalympicsGB colleagues and customers were introduced to boccia this week by Paralympic gold-medalist David Smith, who is a graduate of Swansea University.
Smith visited Sainsbury’s Quay Parade store in Swansea ahead of the year-to-go marker for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, to thank Sainsbury’s colleagues and customers for supporting ParalympicsGB and for helping to change perceptions about disability.
Sainsbury’s became the first Paralympic-only partner in 2012 and has continued its commitment to ParalympicsGB through the Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, which will commence on 25th August next year.
To increase awareness of the fast-approaching Games, the reigning Paralympic, European and World Champion joined the store manager in leading a fun boccia warm-up at the check-outs.
Similar to boules, but played indoors on a court comparable to badminton, the idea of boccia is simple. One side has six red balls and the other six blue balls. The aim is to get the balls closer to the white target ball, the ‘jack’, than your opponent.
Smith, who was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at the age of one, is part of a team of ParalympicsGB athletes including Jonnie Peacock, Ellie Simmonds, Lauren Steadman and Ali Jawad, who are visiting Sainsbury’s stores around the country to build excitement around ParalympicsGB ambitions in Tokyo.
Following his visit, Smith said: “I really enjoyed meeting everyone at my local Sainsbury’s store and introducing them to boccia. It’s not one of the traditional sports you learn about, so it was a good opportunity to boost its profile ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“I’ve been lucky enough to compete in three Paralympics already and we’ve made significant progress around the perception of disability during those 12 years. There’s still a long way to go, but people are much more aware of para-athletes’ skills and success and the support shown when we compete is inspirational to everyone on the team. A big thanks goes to Sainsbury’s for leading the way in their support for ParalympicsGB and for helping to raise awareness of what people living with disability achieve on a daily basis.”
Tipped for another gold medal in Tokyo 2020 to add to his collection of two golds, a silver and bronze, Smith can’t wait for the competition to get going: “I’m really excited that the final countdown to Tokyo starts next week. There’s still plenty of training to go and it’s been a long, hard slog, but it always gives you an extra boost when you reach the year-to-go-milestone.
“The aim is to defend my title, but it’s going to be difficult. So far so good, but things are moving on all the time, so I’ve got to keep pace. Hopefully, by the time Tokyo comes, I’ll have a decent enough advantage that I can get in there and stir things up.
“I won the World Championships in Liverpool last year, but this season has been a bit harder. We have the European Championships in a couple of weeks so that will be a decent benchmark to see where I’m at. It will be a good test against some of my main rivals like Daniel Perez from the Netherlands and Mikhail Gutnik from Russia, who’s in the world’s top four, so I can’t rest on my laurels, I need to keep fighting.”
Smith will be part of the largest and most competitive team Great Britain has ever presented at an overseas Paralympic Games, with around 260 selected athletes and a wider support team of 400 travelling to the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Mike Sharrock, Chief Executive of the British Paralympic Association, said: “The success of our athletes has been the catalyst for a wide range of inspirational activity and positive social change. Sainsbury’s has been a hugely pro-active and influential partner in helping ParalympicsGB to accelerate that change and harnessing the power of sport to inspire a better world for disabled people.
“Our ambition is for ParalympicsGB to be the best-prepared team at Tokyo 2020 and we are confident our athletes can once again provide countless moments to make the nation proud.”
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson added: “We’re extremely proud to support ParalympicsGB. At Sainsbury’s, our vision is to be the most inclusive retailer and our customers and colleagues really get behind the team and are inspired by our para-athletes.
“It has been fantastic to welcome sports stars like David Smith to our stores as we work together to inspire future generations.”
Tokyo 2020 starts on 25 August 2020 and will be the 16th Summer Paralympic Games and will be the second time the Games have been hosted by Tokyo – 1964 the other occasion.
In total, 537 events from 22 sports will be contested at the Games with Badminton and Taekwondo the new additions to the programme
Played by athletes with a high level of impairment resulting from Cerebral Palsy or other conditions affecting motor skills, the sport is a test of muscle control and accuracy, demanding extreme skill and concentration at the highest level. For more information and for classifications visit: https://paralympics.org.uk/sports/boccia
David Smith Biog: Smith got his first taste of boccia aged six as part of a multi-sport event at Stoke Mandeville. Having also enjoyed athletics, wheelchair football and other disability sports, he soon found his strength in boccia.
In 2003, at the age of 14 David Smith became the youngest ever British Boccia Champion, beating the-then GB captain in competition.
Having established himself as the top BC1 player in the UK, David immediately joined the national team, making his major international debut in 2005 when he represented England at the European Championships. Since then David has grown from strength to strength in 2008 winning a gold medal for the team performance in the Beijing Olympics and an Individual BC1: Silver in London 2012 before winning Gold in Rio 2016. David graduated from Swansea University with an Aerospace degree.
- BISFed 2018 World Championships: Individual BC1 Gold
- BISFed 2017 European Championships: Individual BC1 Gold
- Rio 2016 Paralympic Games: Individual BC1: Gold
- London 2012 Paralympic Games: Individual BC1: Silver BC1/BC2 Team: Bronze
- Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games: BC1/BC2 Team: Gold
- 2016 BISFed Boccia Individual World Championships: Individual BC1: Bronze
- 2015 Fed Boccia European Championships Team and Pairs: C1/BC2 Team: Gold
About J Sainsbury plc
Sainsbury’s commitment to helping customers live well for less has been at the heart of what we do since 1869. Today that means making our customers’ lives better and easier every day by offering great quality and service at fair prices across food, clothing, general merchandise and financial services, whenever and wherever they want to shop.
As our customers’ lives change, so will our business. Sainsbury’s acquired Argos and Habitat on 2 September 2016, creating one of the UK’s leading retailers. We have a growing online and digital business with fast, convenient delivery capability and a store network of 600 Sainsbury’s supermarkets, over 800 convenience stores and almost 900 Argos stores in both stand-alone and supermarket locations. The iconic Habitat furniture and home furnishings brand is available online and from 16 locations across the UK.
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About the British Paralympic Association
The British Paralympic Association is the National Paralympic Committee for the UK, responsible for the promotion of the Paralympic movement in Great Britain and selecting, entering and funding the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Paralympic team.
ParalympicsGB is the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Paralympic Team competing at the summer and winter Paralympic Games. We know that the outstanding performances of our athletes have a powerful impact on the British public and can shift perceptions of disability in society, helping to inspire a better world for disabled people.
Our partners are tremendous supporters of the BPA and ParalympicsGB both through direct funds as well as their own fundraising activity. Further details are available at https://paralympics.org.uk/ .