World-class field for boccia’s year-ender

High-quality action guaranteed at Dubai World Open

male boccia player Greg Polychronidis celebrates his winning ball Greg Polychronidis finally captured the individual world title at Liverpool 2018 © • Sportingwales

World champions Greg Polychronidis of Greece and Thailand’s Worawut Saengampa lead a field overflowing with talent and intrigue as the Dubai Boccia World Open kicks off on Saturday (15 December).

Veteran Polychronidis has enjoyed a magical 2018 and will be hoping to end his year in style as 88 of the world’s best boccia players, representing 22 nations, take to the floor in the Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club.

The BC3 star, who has been competing at the top level since making his debut on the international stage in 2002, has already triumphed three times this year, including claiming his first individual world title in Liverpool, Great Britain in August.

The man who he defeated in the 2018 Worlds semi-final, Daniel Michel, lines up against him and will be keen to round off his year with a first major victory. The Australian has three podium finishes to date in 2018, including a Worlds bronze.

Tight contest

While Poland’s Damian Iskrzycki, the 2017 European Championship silver medallist, is likely to pose the biggest threat to Michel and Polychronidis, it is a whole lot harder to pick a favourite in the BC2 category.

Four of the world’s top five-ranked BC2 players will be in action in Dubai with Thailand’s Saengampa and Watcharaphon Vongsa topping the bill.

World No.1 Saengampa is the reigning two-time individual world champion and has won three times already this season. But suffered a surprise defeat in the final of the Chinese Taipei Regional Open at the start of December and compatriot Vongsa will be desperate to exploit any lingering doubts. The former world No.1 has twice finished second to Saengampa this year – at the Asian Para Games and the Povoa World Open.

Japan’s Hidetaka Sugimura is poised to break up this Thai party. The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games silver medallist has openly talked of targeting his home Paralympics in Tokyo in 2020 and will be looking to strike an early blow.

BC1 and BC4 battles

Slovakia’s Tomas Kral will be hoping to similarly crash the Thai party in the BC1 event. Kral, 2017 European bronze medal winner, will, though, have his hands full with Witsanu Huadpradit. Thailand’s two-time 2018 Asian Para Games gold medallist cruised to victory in the recent Chinese Taipei Open and looks well set to round off his year with yet another title.

Compatriot and fellow Chinese Taipei Open winner Pornchok Larpyen might find things significantly tougher in Dubai with 2018 Worlds bronze medallist Boris Nicolai lying in wait in the BC4 event. The German is currently the world No. 6, one place behind Larpyen, and the pair’s duel on the parquet is likely to be one of the highlights of the week.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given all of the above, Thailand are favourites to add the team title in Dubai to their world crown won in Liverpool, although Japan, the team they beat in the final, and the ever-strong Slovakia, might have a word or two to say about that.

It looks like world champions Greece versus the team they beat – Australia – in the BC3 Pairs, with Slovakia and Hong Kong the ones to watch in the BC4 Pairs event.

Keep up to date with all the action on the Boccia International Sports Federation’s (BISFed) website.