The boccia season kicked off at both ends of the world, with strong starts for Thai and Slovak athletes at Regional Opens last week in Guangzhou, China; and Zagreb, Croatia.
Zagreb Regional Open
Slovakia topped the medals table with three golds, one silver and one bronze; at the competition in Zagreb that finished Sunday.
Rio 2016 Paralympic silver medallist Samuel Andrejcik led the way for the nation, winning both his individual BC4 event, and the pairs alongside Michaela Balcova.
Andrejcik dominated all his individual matches, recording clean sheets until the semi-final. Although he struggled in the middle of the final by losing three points, Andrejcik successfully claimed a 4-3 victory against Italy’s Laszlo Hegedus. Ukraine’s Artem Kolinko rounded off the top three.
Slovakia also claimed the mixed pairs event of BC3, led by Boris Klohna and Adam Burianek. They cruised past Czech Republic’s duo of Marcela Cermakova and Adam Peska. The individual BC3 gold medallist Maria Bjurstrom led Sweden to bronze in the mixed pairs.
Slovakia’s Tomas Kral tried to give his nation another title in the individual BC1. However, in the semi-final, he was defeated by France’s Ivannh Mitory who became the eventual gold medallist. He held off home favourite Martin Frkovic. But thanks to his individual effort, the host country Croatia earned two silver medals including one from the pairs BC4 event.
Great Britain also had a good start to the new season. Reigning world and Paralympic BC1 champion David Smith led the mixed team BC1-2 to the top of the podium. Claire Taggart added one silver in the individual BC2 to the country’s medal haul. William Arnott and Scott McCowan also claimed a silver and a bronze, respectively, in the individual BC3.
As the only athlete from Belgium at this event, Francis Rombouts achieved a precious gold in the individual BC2. Spain’s Raul Marti also brought one bronze to home.
Guangzhou Regional Open
Thailand captured three of the four individual gold medals in Guangzhou, as the competition wrapped up on Saturday.
The country swept the BC1 category, with Witsanu Huadpradit – who just missed the 2018 World Championship podium – defeated Subin Tipmanee for the top prize. Natthawut Deemak completed the podium.
Reigning BC2 world champion Worawut Saengampa won his category. But it was all not smooth sailing, as he held off Malaysia’s Chee Hoong Lee by one point. Hong Kong’s Hiu Lam Yeung was third.
Ritthikrai Somsanuk gave Thailand their other third individual gold by defeating Hong Kong’s 2016 Paralympic champion Yuk Wing Leung in the BC4 event. Pornchok Larpyen rounded off the top three, adding more to Thailand’s medal haul.
The BC3 tournament introduced a new contender for the top places. Japan’s Masayuki Arita took his first individual gold, beating Hong Kong’s Yuen Kei Ho. Arita’s compatriot Keisuke Kawamoto claimed bronze.
Thailand added another victory in the pairs and team event, winning the BC1-BC2. Hong Kong took home the BC4 pairs victory, and Chinese Taipei came out on top in the BC3 event.
Complete results can be found on BISFed’s website.