The world’s best boccia players will fight for gold at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, where they will look to cement their name in the history of the sport. Here are eight.
David Smith (GBR)
The Briton has come a long way since his Paralympic debut in 2008 at age 19; to become Paralympic champion eight years later and world No. 1 in the BC1 category.
He was part of the British team that won gold in the BC1-2 team in Beijing 2008, and that seemed to set the stage for an individual title at the London 2012 Games. But it wasn’t meant to be, as Smith lost in the final to longtime Thai rival Pattaya Tadtong. Still, Smith came back stronger. In 2014 he won his first individual world title and finally, after three trips, added Paralympic gold in Rio. The Briton went on to win the 2018 World Championships title at home in Liverpool, followed by a European crown a year later. He solidified his grip as the top athlete in his division entering Tokyo 2020.
Evelyn de Oliveira (BRA)
Having picked up the boccia in 2010, the Suzano native has been a fierce fighter in a competitive BC3 category. She had a successful Paralympic debut at home in 2016 as part of the gold medal winning pair BC3 team. It was a big celebration for her, as they beat world number 1 South Korea in front of home fans.
Oliveira remains one of the top athletes in the Americas region, having won individual silver at the 2019 regional championships and gold at the 2019 Lima Parapan Am Games.
Â© Leondro Martins / CPB
Worawut Saengampa (THA)
Saengampa came close to the gold double at Rio 2016, where he helped Thailand climb to the podium in the BC1-2 team event. But he couldn’t repeat that joy in the BC2 individual gold medal match, falling timid in front of fellow veteran Watcharaphon Vongsa.
However, the 2016 Paralympic Games seemed like a warm-up stage for the young athlete, who showed tremendous growth. He won the individual world title in 2018 and added a gold medal at the Asian Paralympic Games later that year to sit at world No.1.
Alison Levine (CAN)
Protected by Canadian Paralympic bronze medalist Marco Dispaltro, Levine blossomed to be one of the best female athletes in mixed sport. She is the first woman to achieve No.1 status in the BC4 category.
Levine came close to fighting for a Paralympic medal in 2016, but lost in the quarterfinals. She has since made several podiums at various events. Her first major medal is still eluding her and there is no doubt that she is aiming for two – individual and BC4 pairs – in Tokyo.
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Grigorios Polychronidis (GRE)
Polychronidis, who is also called Greg, entered boccia with the dream of competing in his Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004. This dream came true after finding himself in the quarterfinals of the individual BC3 event. in Athens. But reaching the Paralympic Games was not the end goal.
Over the next three Paralympic Games, Polychronidis felt the heartache of missing out on an individual title. The Greek eventually clinched his first major individual gold medal at the 2018 World Championships, where he defeated South Korean Howon Jeong, the same opponent he lost to in the gold medal match at the Paralympics. 2016. After a European title in 2019, the veteran athlete has experience on his side as he strives for Paralympic glory.
Â© Katerina Patroni
Michaela Balcova (SVK)
Balcova joined the Slovakian national team in 2014 and has been a valuable part of the BC4 force of the country’s murderous pairs. She and individual Paralympic champion Samuel Andrejcik were the backbone of the team that won the 2016 Paralympic Games, the 2018 Worlds and the 2019 Europeans. Her role as a team player is evident in position n Slovakia’s # 1 in the BC4 pairs category, and that will be even more vital as they set their sights on back-to-back titles in Tokyo.
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Hidetaka Sugimura (JPN)
The Japanese team captain led his team to a silver medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, and the country will look to him again to celebrate this summer.
Sugimura won a bronze medal at the 2016 World Championships in Beijing, China, his first individual medal in an international competition. At the Worlds two years later, the Japanese star lost to Thailand’s Worawut Saengampa in the semifinals. But he came away with a medal, beating Slovakian Robert Mezik for bronze. The two-time Paralympian and world No.2 ranked player is able to give the host nation a boccia medal at home.
Yuen Kei Ho (HKG)
The Hong Kong athlete finished fifth in the BC3 class on his Paralympic debut in Rio and has since been regularly on the podium in international competitions. She failed in the final of the 2017 Asia-Oceania regional championships, losing to South Korea’s Hansoo Kim on the last ball. She had a solid round-robin finish at the 2018 Worlds, but couldn’t deliver in the playoffs.
Still, the world No. 2 is not to be neglected, especially after a solid 2019 season which included an individual Asia-Oceania title.
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