David Smith named in boccia squad for Paralympics along with Claire Taggart

Three-time Paralympic boccia champion David Smith will look to add to his medal collection in Paris after being named in a five-strong Great Britain and Northern Ireland squad alongside reigning world champion Claire Taggart.

Smith – sporting a distinctive red and blue mohawk – became the Paralympic-specific game’s most successful British player after retaining his individual BC1 title at the rescheduled Tokyo Games three years ago.

Having collected five Paralympic medals so far across four Games, Smith, who was selected as ParalympicsGB’s flagbearer for the closing ceremony in Tokyo, already has his sights firmly set on delivering more success for the squad in 2024.

“While I do love playing individually, the team event has always been a strong passion of mine,” said Smith, who has cerebral palsy.

“The team medal was my first at a Paralympics, so it is kind of where I learned my craft.

“Our team then went into a bit of a transition, so it has always been my ambition to return us to where we were.”

Northern Ireland’s Taggart heads to Paris as the world number one in her class.

The 29-year-old will compete in the new individual female category which has been introduced for 2024, with mixed events on the schedule when she competed at both Rio and Tokyo.

“It is a huge opportunity to compete in front of family and friends, as Paris is so close. I am really excited as well as a bit nervous,” she said.

Former frame runner and swimmer Kayleigh Haggo will make her Paralympic debut after an impressive season, winning a first major international medal in Zagreb during April.

The Scot – who claimed several world titles in frame running before switching to boccia in 2022 – will also compete alongside Taggart and Smith in the BC1/2 team event, with the trio having won silver at the recent Sao Paulo World Cup.

Fellow Paralympic debutants Will Arnott, 25, and Sally Kidson, 19, are set to line up in the BC3 pairs.

The British duo won gold at the qualifying event in Japan earlier this year and also secured a silver medal at the 2023 Para European Championships.

Boccia UK’s performance director Greg Baker said: “Since Tokyo, we have seen some key players retire and it has been more difficult to qualify than ever before, so to see new players coming forward, delivering on the world stage and making their Paralympic debut is fantastic for our sport.

“We have had a very productive season with increased competition and international training opportunities to ensure our athletes and staff are as ready as possible for the Games.”

At Tokyo 2020, ParalympicsGB finished second in the overall medals table with 41 gold, 38 silver and 45 bronze.

ParalympicsGB Chef de Mission Penny Briscoe added: “We have a superb depth of talent among our five selected athletes, across individual and team disciplines, and I can’t wait to see them all in action this summer.”