McGuire says GB can top the table

Fresh from winning two gold medals at the BISFed World Boccia Open Montreal, Scotland’s Stephen McGuire has revealed that he believes Great Britain can “top the medal table” at the BISFed 2018 World Boccia Championships in Liverpool in August.

“It will be incredibly tough, we will need to keep our discipline, our focus, our togetherness – but we have the athletes to do so. Britain has the strongest unity I have witnessed over my ten years and counting of being involved in the squad. We push each other across every classification on a daily basis and I believe this has acted as a catalyst to our success over the past few seasons.”

Britain finished in second place at April’s World Open in Montreal yet they finished fifth at the Rio Paralympics. To climb to the top would mean overturning the great boccia nations of Thailand, Japan and Brazil. Yet McGuire remains confident:

“David Smith in the BC1 classification has consistently showed his class in the big events. Our BC4 Pair have been consistent in the medal matches of late. Our BC3 Pair won silver in their last World Championships outing together. Jamie McCowan and I are highly ranked individually in our respective classifications at the moment and looking to put the pressure on, come the Worlds. We have the talent across every classification to top the medal table.”

He is certainly “highly ranked”. He is in fact the World No.1. Outings to the Regional Open in Madrid and the World Open in Montreal have both resulted in winning every gold medal on offer – both Individually and in the Pairs:

“Last year was my most consistent season and I’ve tried to keep the momentum into 2018 in the lead up to the Worlds in Liverpool.

“Every athlete is targeting the Worlds in Liverpool as their main goal. My preparation for this event started over the winter months. Without giving away too many trade secrets, I’ve been working hard on increasing my consistency on court, working on match play tactics off court and, above all, continuing to build momentum and improve our rankings in order to give myself and our Pair the best opportunity to medal in Liverpool. We know each other’s strengths, we pull each other through matches but above anything we have so much fun doing what we do.”

McGuire is not oblivious to the competition though:

“The BC4 division is widely contested and anyone from the top 16 in the world rankings have the potential and skills to win in Liverpool. The main competition to look out for would be Paralympic Champion Yuk Wing Leung from Hong Kong – he has proven his talent year after year on the big stage and will be looking to reach the podium. Yuansen Zheng from China is a challenger having been my opponent in the last World Championship final. From Europe, the likely challenger could come from Slovakia in Samuel Andrejcik. Although he has never won a World Championship medal, he showed his class in 2016 by reaching the Paralympic final individually.

“The pairs event is similarly wide open. Hong Kong may go in as favourites but the Colombians have showed their class over the past year and are rapidly rising through the World rankings. We expect stiff competition from Brazil, Thailand and Slovakia. There are many Pairs who can reach the podium but I believe we are in the mix too.”

And there’s a lot at stake. There are not just World titles on offer but significant ranking points too. The Worlds carry the most ranking points in the race to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020.

The Scot is no stranger to success, of course. Over the last three World Championships, he has amassed a collection of one gold and two silver. His first came in Lisbon in 2010 alongside his brother Peter McGuire.

And while Peter won’t be playing this time around, he will certainly be a big part of the support team:

“The Worlds in Liverpool will be extra special for me. Half my family and many friends live in this wonderful city and will be there to support all British athletes. The people of Liverpool love their sport and can generate a tremendous atmosphere when supporting their favourites. I’m excited to play in front of such passionate supporters.”

“Liverpool is my home away from home. I have so many family members who live in this wonderful city and when our boccia friends from all over the world arrive they will see just why this city is special. Liverpool has culture and heritage at the heart of the city. From its famous musical scene, museums and galleries to its famous sporting history there is something for everyone to enjoy. Liverpool is steeped in history but it’s the people who make it special. I guarantee every athlete will be welcomed into the city with open arms and lots of laughter.”

Duncan Tunbridge