“At one time, it was always Portugal and Spain that were always going to win the medals. Now it’s a big group of countries who can win the medals.
Great Britain’s Nigel Murray knows that next week’s Boccia World Cup is not going to be an easy ride.
Almost 200 athletes from 33 countries will take part in the event from 18 – 27 August at the University of Ulster in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the hope of qualifying for the London 2012 Paralympic Games and improving their rankings enough to get a good draw next year.
Nigel Murray may be ranked world number one in the BC2 class (where players are able to use their hands to consistently propel a ball into play), and part of the Great Britain team that is ranked second, but he thinks his opponents are better than ever.
“The competition is going to be very tough. It gets tougher each year, like a lot of sports, so there are no guarantees to get a medal individually or as a team.”
What this means is that spectators are in for a roller-coaster ride where anything could happen in a game that demands 100 per cent competitive spirit, accuracy, co-ordination and strategy.
“At one time, it was always Portugal and Spain that were always going to win the medals,” Murray said. “Now it’s a big group of countries who can win the medals. From a competitive point of view it makes it more interesting for people and it raises the standards of the game.”
Murray reckons the countries with the biggest potential to win medals are Korea, China, Portugal, Spain and of course Great Britain. He is expecting a particularly aggressive, attack-minded game from Asian countries like Korea and China.
“They’re always looking to attack. If things are built up around the jack ball, they try and blast everything open whereas we’re a bit more tactful and try and build up the heads,” Murray said. “Blasting things open has its advantages, but it can be a disadvantage when it’s too attack-minded, and you don’t get a ball close, and you lose out on scoring.”
In the individual competition, Murray says his biggest rivals are likely to come from Portugal’s Fernando Ferreira and Hong Kong’s Karen Kwok.
Nevertheless, Nigel Murray, the veteran of Great Britain’s Boccia team having played competitively for 13 years, is determined to get a spot on the podium at his fourth Boccia World Cup.
“I think like a lot of the people, my hope is really to win a medal both as an individual and as a team. That’s certainly our target.
“I am competitive so I never give up, whatever the situation. I’ll always hang in and fight,” Murray said, adding, “I hate losing.”
Murray is hoping that his experience will work in his favour in Belfast.
“I think I’m quite tactical and I’ve got a good insight into what’s going to happen at a major competition and the pressures of playing a game, particularly when the matches become close, which I think is a big advantage,” he said. “It sounds clichéd, but there isn’t anything like experience.”