The sport’s top athletes, including several Paralympic champions, will be under one roof for the first time this year when the Hong Kong Boccia World Open hits off Monday.
All individual world champions from last year in Liverpool, Great Britain, will be closely watched.
Great Britain’s David Smith (BC1), Thailand’s Worawut Saengampa (BC2), Greece’s Greg Polychronidis (BC3) and China’s Yuansen Zheng (BC4) boast the number one world rankings in their respective categories. But Hong Kong will be no easy tournament, as several top-10 ranked players could serve spoils.
Smith’s toughest match appears to be Thailand’s Witsanu Huadpradit, ranked No. 3 in the world. Huadpradit is coming off a win at March’s Regional Open in Guangzhou, China. The Thai athlete was disappointed after missing the podium at Liverpool 2018, but quickly got back to form after winning gold at the 2018 Asian Para Games. Japan’s Takumi Nakamura could also challenge for the podium.
The BC2 category will be an even more competitive line-up, with rival teammates Saengampa and Watcharaphon Vongsa set to make an interesting showdown. The two faced off for gold at both Liverpool 2018 and Rio 2016. China’s Worlds runner-up Zhiqiang Yan and Japan’s Worlds bronze medallist Hidetaka Sugimura will try to spoil an all Thai final.
Polychronidis will make his season debut after a memorable experience in Liverpool that saw him capture his first major individual gold medal. His comeback victory left South Korea’s Rio 2016 Paralympic champion Howon Jeong in tears, so expect the Korean to seek revenge. But Australia’s Daniel Michel, third-place finisher from the 2018 Worlds, had shown excellent consistency last season and should not be underestimated.
Colombia’s Euclides Grisales will also try to find redemption from Liverpool 2018 when he will see Zheng, the very man who defeated him in the Worlds gold medal match. Great Britain’s former world champion Stephen McGuire did not make the podium in 2018 and is back looking to regain his form, as would 2016 Paralympic champion and home star Yuk Wing Leung.
The Hong Kong Boccia World Open runs until 19 May. More information can be found on BISFed’s website.