Worawut Saengampa ends 2018 in style

Thailand’s finest ignores shocks to triumph again in boccia season-ender

male boccia player Worawut Saengampa plays a ball Worawut Saengampa rounded off a stunning 2018 with victory in Dubai © • Getty Images

Worawut Saengampa will remember 2018 for some time. Thailand’s BC2 star took part in five major boccia tournaments during the past 12 months and won four of them, finishing second in the fifth.

The 26-year-old world No. 1 was clearly in no mood to end his magnificent year with anything but a gold medal. In rampant form throughout the season-ending Dubai World Open, Saengampa won all five of his individual matches by some margin. Even Japan’s Rio 2016 Paralympic silver medallist Hidetaka Sugimura was no match for Thailand’s finest, going down 9-2 in the final.

Saengampa’s compatriot, Watcharaphon Vongsa, the world No.4, took the bronze defeating South Korea’s Won Kim 11-4.

If the final stages of the BC2 competition had an air of inevitability about them, the same cannot be said in the BC3 category. Reigning world champion Greg Polychronidis of Greece failed to even make it to the medal rounds, losing 5-2 to Portugal’s Jose Macedo in the quarter final.

Macedo, in turn, was defeated by compatriot Avelino Andrade in the semi-final, a man ranked two places below him at 13 in the world standings. Andrade’s opponent in the final was not however a shock.

Australia’s Daniel Michel had a great 2018, a bronze medal at the World Championships one of several highlights. He capped it all by winning the final in Dubai 5-2, but not before he had played the match of the week. At the halfway point of his semi-final, the Australian found himself 4-0 down against Japan’s Kazuki Takahashi. But a point in the third followed by an outrageous three-pointer in the fourth end sent the match to a tiebreak, from which a relieved Michel emerged.

If anything the BC4 event was even more topsy-turvy with form and world rankings seemingly an irrelevance. Despite arriving in Dubai on the back of a classy win at the Chinese Taipei Regional Open and, at No. 5, the highest ranked player in the field, Thailand’s Pornchok Larpyen exited at the quarter-final stage, crushed 12-2 by Hyeon Seok Seo of South Korea.

Larpyen’s long-time rival, world No. 6 Boris Nicolai fared even worse. The German lost two out of his three pool matches and failed to make the knockout stage.

In the absence of the big hitters, Hong Kong took over. Compatriots Kwan Hang Wong and Wai Yan Vivian faced off in the final with the former claiming the gold by virtue of a 4-1 victory.

Witsanu Huadpradit made sure that the shocks did not extend to the BC1 event. Thailand’s double 2018 Asian Games champion continued his fine form by winning his second title in the space of a month. Huadpradit powered to gold courtesy of an 8-2 win in the final against Japan’s Takumi Nakamura.

Thailand capped a fabulous year in boccia by claiming the team title, defeating Japan in a repeat of the Worlds final. The nation’s BC4 pairs also triumphed, beating the current world bronze medallists Hong Kong.

For a full set of results check out Boccia International Sports Federation’s (BISFed) website.