After the shocking results of the 2011 Boccia World Cup when unranked players beat world favourites, the recent Boccia Europa Cup seemed to reassert the old order.
A total of 59 competitors from 17 nations gathered in Hamar, Norway, from 27-31 October for the event, which consisted of a preliminary pool round followed by an elimination round.
Great Britain’s David Smith was champion in the BC1 category, where players are able to use hands or feet to propel the ball. He beat off the Netherlands’ Daniel Perey 7-1 in the final. Norway’s Roger Aandalen took bronze over Slovakia’s Jakub Nagy 7-4.
Greece’s Panagiotis Soulanis, who in the Boccia World Cup came out of the bottom of the ranking tables to beat Smith, only made it to sixth place at the Europa Cup after Perez knocked him out in the quarter final.
With the absence of world-great Nigel Murray in the BC2 class, where players are able to use their hands to consistently propel a ball into play, Portugal’s Abilio Valente went into the competition as the favourite, having come out of nowhere to beat Murray at the World Cup to take gold.
Valente was determined to prove that his World Cup win in October was not a mere fluke. But he had a disappointing Europa Cup, not even making it past the preliminary pool round.
Instead it was Great Britain’s Daniel Bentley who took gold in the BC2 class, with Slovakian teammates Tomas Kral and Robert Mezik taking silver and bronze respectively.
In the BC4 category, Portugal’s Domingos Jose Vieira da Costa also went into the competition as a favourite, having won bronze at the World Cup as a previously unranked player. But more experienced players got the better of him as he was beaten 4-6 by Great Britain’s Peter McGuire for the match for third place.
McGuire’s brother, Stephen, took silver after losing 3-5 to Spain’s Jose Maria Dueso Villar, who took gold. The BC4 game is for players who do not have Cerebral Palsy but have another locomotor impairment in all four limbs, which gives them a similar functional ability to BC2 athletes.
Greece’s Grigorios Polychronidis proved he was the one to beat in the BC3 class, in which players with a locomotor impairment in all four limbs use a ramp to propel the ball into play and are supported by an assistant or 'ramper'. Polychronidis took gold wiping out Ireland’s Johnny Cronin 8-0. Belgium’s Kirsten de Laender won bronze, beating Great Britain’s Jacob Thomas 5-3.
The 2012 Boccia Europa Cup was a qualifying event for individual athletes hoping to compete at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Boccia fans have the chance to purchase an ExCel day pass giving them access to Boccia, Sitting Volleyball, Table Tennis, Wheelchair Fencing and Powerlifting at next year’s Paralympics.