Reigning Paralympic and world champions have gathered in Liverpool, Great Britain, searching for more silverware as the 2018 World Boccia Championships get underway on Sunday (12 August). The tournament will feature 190 athletes across 33 countries competing in seven medal events– four individual (BC1, BC2, BC3 and BC4) and three team (BC1-2 team, BC3 pairs and BC4 pairs).
Great Britain boasts two world No. 1 ranked players who will give the home crowd plenty to cheer for. David Smith has been in outstanding form since winning his first Paralympic individual gold after three Games in the BC1, and now looks to add his first world title since 2014. He has been rolling since Rio, adding the 2017 European Championship title and another confident-boosting win in July’s Povoa World Open. The Netherlands’ world No. 2 Daniel Perez and Russia’s No. 3 Mikhail Gutnik* are seeking redemption though after falling to Smith at Rio 2016 and the 2017 Euros, respectively.
Smith’s compatriot Stephen McGuire will try to make up for Paralympic disappointment in 2016. After winning the BC4 individual world title in Beijing, China, that took place a few months before the Games, McGuire failed to follow that up with a medal in Rio. Hong Kong’s reigning Paralympic champion Yuk Win Leung and Thailand’s Rio 2016 bronze medal winner Pornchuk Larpyen.
Greece’s Greg Polychronidis would rather forget his last World Championships, where an equipment error saw him end the competition without a medal. He sits atop the BC3 standings, with his win in July’s World Open giving momentum. South Korea’s Jeong Ho Won however has proven to deliver under pressure; Jeong is the only athlete in Liverpool who can say he is the reigning Paralympic and world champion.
The BC2 final could feature an all-Thailand affair between No. 1 Watcharaphon Vongsa and No. 2 Worawut Saengampa. Vongsa topped his compatriot at Rio 2016 and the 2017 Asia-Oceania Championships, but Liverpool 2018 could be Saengampa’s golden moment.
Individual events wrap up on 15 August, and three days of team competition will follow.
Brazil bring back the gold medal squad from their home Games in the BC3 pairs. But the world’s No. 1 team have not faced much competition outside the Americas this year. Jeong and Choi Ye Jin return from the South Korean squad that lost to the Brazilians in the Paralympic final and will have revenge in mind.
Slovakia’s No. 1 ranked and Paralympic champion BC4 pair in Samuel Andrejcik and Michaela Balcova are the favourites, while Vongsa and Saengampa will be a difficult duo to get past in the BC1-2 team event.
The 2018 World Boccia Championship run until 18 August and you can watch it all live on the International Paralympic Committee's website.
*Editor's note: The International Paralympic Committee suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee on 7 August 2016 for its inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code (to which it is also a signatory). As a result of the suspension, Russian athletes cannot enter IPC sanctioned events or competitions, including the Paralympic Games.