Paralympian David Smith proud of "positive effect" of London 2012By Jonathan Low
September 21, 2012
Paralympic gold medallist rower David Smith says he is still stunned at the impact the Olympic and Paralympic Games have had on the British public this summer.
David, who lived and trained in Binfield and Ascot in the run-up to the Paralympics, was victorious in the mixed coxed fours event at Eton Dorney.
It capped a remarkable comeback for the 34-year-old, who had been living with back pain for years.
He was diagnosed with a tennis ball-sized tumour in his back in May 2010 and suffered a spinal stroke shortly after.
David, who was born with a club foot, said: “Sport has really changed my life.
“The last few years haven’t really sunk in – they’ve been a crazy rollercoaster ride.
“But I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.
“Mentally and physically it was a shock when the surgeon had to open up my neck and remove the tumour, and from then on there was a massive mental component to training.
“Every session hurt and it was as much a mental challenge as it was physical.”
Many other sportsmen and women may well have packed it in at this stage, but not David.
The Paralympic gold medallist competed for Great Britain in non-disabled karate and bobsleigh in the early noughties, and just missed out on qualifying for the Winter Olympics in 2006.
“I’ve been in pain for more than 10 years, but I love sport and sport is my life,” he explained.
“Nothing is as bad as what I went through so it’s all part of the journey.
“When I was in hospital I was visualising doing sessions in the gym – and mentally it feels like I haven’t had a day off in two years.
“It’s as if everything was paved out, and having a home Games came just at the right time.”
David, who grew up in Aviemore, in the Scottish Highlands, was in awe of the reception the rowers had at Eton Dorney.
“The noise from the stands was incredible and it was like having 15,000 people in the boat,” he said.
“They took each stroke with us.
“Going into the Games I was hoping for the gold.
“I wasn’t expecting the Germans to go as fast they did in the heats, but it’s great for sport.
“Britain really embraced it and it all happened so quickly.
“I still think I’m dreaming sometimes because it really was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
David said winning gold at the Paralympics was the proudest moment of his life.
“It’s an amazing feeling and amazing to see what a positive effect it’s had on the country,” he said.
“The parade in London was unbelievable and I want to say thank you to everyone who turned out. It was something out of this world.
“It’s amazing to see the effect the Olympics and Paralympics have had on the country, and the benefits sport can have on people.
“It’s been tiring, but it’s a nice tired.”