“I’ve had one year off and I think it’s given me a lot more energy. I have a baby and family watching from Canada and cheering me on and supporting me."
Canada’s Paul Gauthier is determined to defend his World Cup title at the Boccia World Cup in Belfast, Northern Ireland this week, having been out of the game for a year.
Gauthier has spent his 20 year career being in the top eight competitors in the BC3 category. He won the World Cup in 2007 and took gold at the 2004 Paralympics.
But having taken 2010 off to spend time with his newly born son, Matteo, he only started training six months ago, which has made him slip down the rankings to 39th.
He and his teammates Alison Kabush and Bruno Garneau came fourth last week in the BC3 Pairs event, qualifying for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. But it is this week’s individual event that he is determined to win.
“I want to defend my gold medal and be up there with the top athletes over the next few days and show them that I’ve still got it.
“To compete in the Paralympics individually, my ranking needs to be higher,” Gauthier said.
And on the individual court he has got a few scores to settle.
“I’m hoping to compete against my arch rival Grigorio Polychronidis from Greece."
Polychronidis and Gauthier have been battling it out for years. Gauthier beat him to take gold at the 2007 World Cup, but Polychronidis was the last one to win at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics. Gauthier reckons it is now his turn.
“Grigorio and I met up in Beijing and he knocked me out, so I want to return the favour,” Gauthier said.
“It’s just a matter of strategy and making the right shots. In 2007, I made the shots and in 2008 he won the shots.
“But I think I want it more than he does this year.”
Gauthier says his mental game and focus may be what takes him to victory.
“I’ve had one year off and I think it’s given me a lot more energy. I have a baby and family watching from Canada and cheering me on and supporting me.
“It’s not just the joyous occasion of having a new person in my life, but actually taking the year off gave me a new view of Boccia. I see things completely different now.”
Gauthier says he has gained in patience, taken stock and spent time selecting the best equipment.
“When you’re in it all the time, you’re reacting and reacting, but not able to think about being progressive and looking to the future. That year off allowed me to take the step to change my ramp and Boccia balls. You have to find the balls that work for you and I was able to do that in a more calm way and not pressured by the next competition.”
Gauthier is revelling at being back on the court and he is determined to climb back up the rankings.
For Gauthier, Boccia means everything – not just in terms of his competitive success, but it also led him to his wife, Sarah. They met when she volunteered as his sport assistant.
“Sport has led to opportunities for me in the social sphere and given me self esteem and the ability to dream, and dream big. And one of my dreams, as well as being a Paralympic athlete, was to be married and have children and being involved in sport allowed that to come true as well.”