Spinal tumour forces Highland Paralympian hero to abandon Rio bid

Paralympic Gold medalist David Smith, MBEParalympic Gold medalist David Smith, MBE
Paralympic Gold medalist David Smith, MBE
A brave Highland athlete has spoken emotionally about being forced to give up his Olympic dream to face lifesaving surgery.

Paralympian David Smith has abandoned his bid to compete in the Rio Games this year as he faces another battle with a persistent spinal tumour.

The 37-year-old had been hoping to race in the Great Britain paracycling team – after winning rowing gold in the 2012 Games.

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In a spirited and emotionally-charged blog posted on his website, he states: “Losing the 8mm fight and fighting for my life in three weeks on the operating table again.”

David SmithDavid Smith
David Smith

He has already survived three rounds of surgery on his spine.

Mr Smith, originally from Dumferline but now living in Aviemore, said: “You feel that one tear slowly run down your face, and as you close your eyes another follows, this is the moment you’re met with emotion.

“Emotion can come in so many ways and I have cried through joy and fear over the years, however the tear that is running down my face right now is one that I didn’t think would happen this year.

“As I walked through the hospital last Thursday I could feel the world around me stop, then the door opens and you see your surgeon.

David SmithDavid Smith
David Smith

“I have walked through this door so many times. However this time was one of the most heart wrenching moments.
“What was to follow has hit me harder than any other time I have walked through that door.
“I could tell after the last scan from the body language of the girl in the MRI unit, I have become good at reading their body language over the years.”

He continued: “So you sit in the seat looking at a screen of an image of your neck, your praying, hoping and holding onto every inch of life that the tumour has gone, then you see that it has grown even bigger and you feel your heart stop as you know what is about to follow.

“The words didn’t even have to leave my surgeon’s mouth, I knew in the moment all my dreams for 2016 had gone, for me its never been about winning medals in cycling.

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“I just wanted to live and love the sport and in this one moment it was taken taway from me and no matter how hard I fight there is nothing I can do about it.

“It has growing so much that if left It would crush my cord and I would stop breathing.”

The athlete explained he had a neural attack in training last week and found himself lying on the floor in pain.

He added: “I almost knew then something was wrong, but you believe that its not the tumour, it can’t be again!
I have been so lost since Thursday, when I sit and think what is about to come I feel tears run down my face and my heart stop.

“I know I can fight this but also knowing that everything I have worked for since the last surgery is about to be taken away from me is hard.

“To walk along that corridor in 3 weeks time and climb onto the table to close my eyes once again not knowing if you will ever open them again, or when you do will you be able to stand or will you be paralysised from the neck down.
“Letting go of Rio is one thing, and to be so close to the World Champs is hard but the real difficult part is I feel so healthy and Love life.

“I have spent a few days walking around thinking I am so scared and don’t want to let go of life. I have sat on trains, buses and just walked in the rain crying that I am going to miss out on life as I lay in a hospital bed fighting again.

“I think how many times have I not lived in the moment over the last year and now want to stop time so the next few weeks till surgery go slow and I can love every second of life.

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“So in March I will walk into the hospital and give everything I have to walk out and live life to the full.”

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Mr Smith won gold as a rower at the London Paralympics in 2012 in the mixed coxed fours before switching to cycling. Last year he cycled up Mont Ventoux, in France, three times in one day.Scottish heritage: for stories on Scotland’s people, places and history >>