“If you ask me, the game was fantastic. We had many schoolchildren watching the game. That was our ambition – to show the game to children”
Greece’s Paralympic silver medallist Greg Polychronidis won a closely fought friendly Boccia match against British champion Jacob Thomas on Wednesday (4 April).
The final score was 3-3 with Polychronidis winning the tiebreaker.
Crowds of school children attended the game in Athens, which was organized by the Hellenic Paralympic Committee, the Greek Muscular Distrophy Association and the British Embassy and sponsored by Allianz.
The match started off in Polychronidis’ favour, with him winning the first end 2-0.
“On the first end, Greg had two points. He got his ball on and I couldn’t move it,” explained Thomas, who first started playing Boccia seven years ago as a throwing player in the BC4 category before switching to a ramp in the BC3 event after his condition changed.
The score for the second end was 1-1, when both Thomas’ and Polychronidis’ balls were touching the jack ball. At this point, Thomas knew he had to stay focused to bring the game around.
“I just thought, I’m down two points, but I know I can get back level,” said 17-year-old Thomas, who is 13 years younger than his opponent.
His determination paid off. On the third end, Thomas knocked one of Polychronidis’ balls away with such power, launching his ball high on the ramp so it jumped up and landed on top of the jack ball – a totally unexpected shot for Polychronidis.
“On the third end, Jacob made a fantastic shot. His ball went in the air and landed on the jack ball, so he won that end 0-1,” said Polychronidis.
The final end was equally nail-biting. Polychronidis started with what Thomas described as “the perfect shot.” It took Thomas four balls to knock it away and move closer, but then Polychronidis used up all his balls to get closer again. Thomas’ final ball clinched the 1-0 end in his favour.
“With my last shot, I knocked the jack onto my red ball,” Thomas said.
After four ends, the score was 3-3 and the game went into a tiebreaker, which Polychronidis dominated from the beginning by landing a shot that blocked Thomas’ line to the jack ball.
The teenager used two shots to knock it away and a few more to get his ball on the jack, but Polychronidis had five balls remaining, allowing him plenty of options to make the winning shot.
“If I could have got closer sooner, really, it would have been better,” lamented Thomas, who plans to concentrate on fine-tuning the accuracy of his shots and his mental focus, if he is selected on 10 April to represent Great Britain at London 2012, which would be his first Paralympic Games.
“If I get selected, I’ll be going for gold,” said Thomas, who is currently ranked 17th in the BC3 category.
If they do meet in London, Polychronidis will take his opponent very seriously, especially given the close run of events in Athens.
“I was not surprised by the score because I knew he was one of the top players. That’s why he was invited,” said Polychronidis, who is third in the world rankings.
The game was watched by crowds of Greek schoolchildren, eager to experience the Paralympic sport up close.
“If you ask me, the game was fantastic. We had many schoolchildren watching the game. That was our ambition – to show the game to children,” said Polychronidis.
“We had the national television there, so it will be televised on the evening news, and we had some journalists from newspapers as well.”