The year 2018 included an all-important World Championships in Liverpool, Great Britain. Find out what was learned from this year in boccia:
1. David Smith stays king of BC1
David Smith held onto his world No. 1 ranking after all the gold medal collected this year. He started strong by winning the Madrid Boccia Regional Open.
However Brazilian rival Jose Carlos Chagas de Oliveira beat him in the semi-finals of the Montreal World Open, on his way to gold; Smith finished third.
But the Brit rebounded at the Povoa World Open, and followed up with a the world title in front of home crowd. He looked strong toward retaining his Paralympic title at Tokyo 2020.
2. Thai athletes maintain dominant level
Thailand made their first international appearance this year at Povoa, Portugal by claiming golds in both individual BC2 and mixed team BC1-2; one silver in the individual BC1 and one bronze in the individual BC4.
Their good form also brought outstanding results at the 2018 Worlds. Although Rio 2016 gold medallist Watcharaphon Vongsa was knocked out in the pool stages, the title was won by another Thai – No.3 world ranked Worawut Saengampa.
Thai favourites Vongsa and Saengamapa led their teammates to win the mixed team BC1-2 world title. Team Thailand also added one silver from the pairs BC4.
Thailand also topped the 2018 Asian Para Games medals table rank with six total, including golds in the BC1, BC2 and the mixed team BC1-2.
Besides one gold and one silver won by their favourite Saengampa and Vongsa respectively, Witsanu Huadpradit claimed a gold in the individual BC1. Also, the 23-year-old Ritthikrai Somsanuk contributed the mixed pairs BC4 to make the podium after winning his individual silver.
3. Slovakian dream team
Slovakia demonstrated their class in the pairs BC4. In 2018 the Slovak team gave a slight variation to the squad.
Rio 2016 Paralympic gold trio (Robert Durkovic, Michaela Balcova and Samuel Andrejcik) revived their glory at the 2018 World Open in Povoa . Afterward, instead of Durkovic, Martin Streharsky joined the trio, and they claimed the Worlds title at Liverpool 2018.
“We will do our best to collect more points for our international ranking and to qualify for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games,” Andrejcik had said.
4. China not to be overlooked
China only took home one bronze won by Zhiqiang Yan in the individual BC2 at the 2016 Paralympic Games.
In 2018, the nation made more appearances in the medal tables. Veteran Yan defended his silver medal in the individual BC2 at Liverpool 2018 following the 2014 Worlds, and Kai Sun won a silver in the individual BC1. Also, team China finished third in the mixed team BC1-2.
They also showed improvement in the BC4. Yusansen Zheng defeated Colombia’s Euclides Grisales in the gold medal match at the World Championships. Moreover, the Chinese dominated both individual and pairs events at 2018 Asian Para Games.
5. New faces
Steve Wilson became the first Bermudian boccia athlete to win gold at an international competition in almost six years by claiming the individual BC4 event at the Buenos Aires Regional Open.
He took the first gold for his country after remaining unbeaten in all six of his matches. The 70-year-old is now aiming to qualify for the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games.
Singaporean trio Nurulasyigah Taha, Toh Sze Ning and Fayre Lim Yu Fei clinched the first medal in the pairs BC3 at the Asian Para Games when they placed second followed by Hong Kong.
6. Euclides Grisales’s historical achievement
Euclides Grisales took Colombia’s first medal at a World Boccia Championships by earning a silver in the individual BC4.
Grisales took up the sport in 2009 and made his major debut at the Worlds in 2018. This year, the BC4 category was competitive as there were many strong athletes including world No.2 Andrejcik and home favourite Stephen McGuire.