“Sometimes it’s not only the title but it’s the path to the title. So for me the final individuals and the gold medal I can say was my greatest success of my career.”
Greece’s Greg Polychronidis could not respond to all the congratulation messages he received after winning individual gold at the 2018 World Boccia Championships in Liverpool, Great Britain.
That is because the next day, he had to get ready for the BC3 pairs matches, which he also won to complete his most memorable performance in his 17-year career, as the Worlds finished on 18 August.
“I don’t even know how many, but I didn’t have time to reply because the pairs were starting the next day and we had a tough schedule and very tough opponents,” Polychronidis said. “So everything was postponed. I also had some journalists from Greece, and I told them I will speak to them on Monday because I cannot do it now.”
The end of a long wait
A multi-Paralympic and world medallist, Polychronidis achieved pairs gold at London 2012.
But he had never won a major individual title.
At the moment in the gold medal match, Polychronidis looked like he would have to wait until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics to achieve that goal.
South Korea’s reigning Paralympic champion Howon Jeong was up 5-2 heading into the fourth and final end. Polychronidis was able to score three balls close to the jack, comfortable for a tiebreak round. But he had one ball to play, and he went for the win.
“Surprisingly, every time I try to think logical,” the 37-year-old said. “But that last shot for me, there was no tiebreak. It was win or lose. So thankfully the ball went to the target and I won.”
Polychronidis and his assistant and wife Katerina broke into an emotional celebration.
“Sometimes it’s not only the title but it’s the path to the title,” Polychronidis said. “So for me the final individuals and the gold medal I can say was my greatest success of my career.”
“It’s easy. This time I was with her”
Two years ago, the couple competed in their first Paralympics together and felt the heartbreak of settling for silver.
Since then, they have trained more, working on tactics, skills and risks, for six hours every day, and sacrificing holidays to train for Liverpool.
“After the Rio 2016 final, Katerina and I said we want to be better,” Polychronidis said. “So we wanted to be better. What we want to do? Sacrifice and work for that. And that is why I say this is my greatest success. That’s how I feel because the hard work paid off. And now we have our next target which is Tokyo 2020 and have to keep that up.”
Katerina added: “Actually we don’t have a normal life. We only train, train, train. And then we go back home, and we have to speak or talk about boccia. And to improve our equipment, our tactics and the next morning we have to go back to the court.”
There was another game-changer that helped Polychronidis achieve the individual gold:
“It’s easy. This time I was with her.”
Maybe there will be time to celebrate before training for that eluded individual Paralympic gold.
“Yes, I think we will party,” Polychronidis said.
“Of course we will, come on now,” his wife interrupted.
“OK, of course we will party,” he said.