Home » Jack Smith sends warning message to Paralympic wheelchair rugby rivals

Jack Smith sends warning message to Paralympic wheelchair rugby rivals

Jack Smith sends warning message to Paralympic wheelchair rugby rivals

Wheelchair rugby star Jack Smith believes “everyone should be scared” of reigning champions Great Britain ahead of their Paralympic title defence.

Smith is on Monday set to be named in his country’s squad for Paris 2024 – three years on from making history in Tokyo by helping clinch ParalympicsGB’s first gold medal in the team sport.

Since that unprecedented feat, Britain have twice been runners-up to France at the European Championships, in addition to a disappointing seventh placed finish at the 2022 World Championship during a period of transition.

Yet Smith feels his team possess a fear factor and the capability to retain their crown in the French capital.

“We should almost be putting that target on our backs ourselves, give us a bit more belief,” the 33-year-old, who is among 1,100 athletes supported by National Lottery funding, told the PA news agency.

“We are the reigning champions. We might not have had the best cycle so far leading up to the Games, but ultimately we’re going there as gold medal winners from Tokyo so everyone should be gunning for us and everyone should be scared of us.

“We are the best team, we believe, and we fully believe that we have what it takes to go out there and win that gold.”

Great Britain defeated Canada, New Zealand, hosts Japan and the United States to top the Paralympic podium in 2021.

Smith and his team-mates were subsequently made MBEs.

“It’s still so surreal,” he said. “At first, it was mad. Getting MBEs and it’s a very strange thing to deal with, people actually wanting a bit of you. But thankfully all of that has settled down a little bit now, it’s kind of back to normality.

“Obviously an amazing achievement but the big thing for us now is we want to go forward and replicate that in Paris and do something really special out there.

“The sport’s got so competitive over the last three years. Any one of seven teams could pick up a medal easily.”

Smith’s own story is a remarkable one.

Having just been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2008, he broke his neck at the bottom of a ruck playing rugby aged 16.

He battled cancer for a second time after discovering a lump in his groin in 2020 and would have missed the Tokyo triumph had the Games not been pushed back a year due to Covid-19.

“I always say – and I don’t know if it’s politically correct or not – that I’m emotionally retarded,” he replied when asked about his mental resilience.

“Nothing really bothers me either way. I never get these massive highs, I never really get these massive lows, everything is quite on a level.

“I think I just get so fixated on something that I’m always happy to do whatever it takes to get there.”

Paris has additional significance for Smith, from Sedgefield, County Durham, after he became a father in February.

Following the crowd-free coronavirus Games in the Far East, daughter Judy, who was named after his grandmother, will be among the spectators this time around.

“I used to lose a game or make an error and it would bug me for weeks, but now you just can’t afford to do it,” he said.

“You go home and see her having a little smile or something – that’s what it’s all about.

“You want to make your daughter proud so hopefully I’ll go out there and win a medal in Paris and she’ll be there to see it.”

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