Great Britain won four of the seven events at the 2015 Boccia European Continental Cup, held in Barcelona between the 1st and 5th of April.
The competition was the first of the 2015 season and featured the top ranked countries in Europe.
The BC1/BC2 Team of David Smith, Nigel Murray, Joshua Rowe and newcomer Claire Taggart were never troubled as they marched to the final where they triumphed 10-1 over Spain to cement their status as World number ones.
The medals also flowed in the individual events. The BC2 final was an all GB affair as Nigel Murray overcame Joshua Rowe 4-1 to win Gold. Murray was in imperious form winning seven straight matches to clinch the title. Rowe had lost to Portugal’s Cristina Goncalves in his pool but two 11-0 victories meant he qualified top. He met Goncalves again in the semi-final where he prevailed after a tie break. Claire Taggart of Northern Ireland did brilliantly to make it through her pool on her international debut but she lost to Abilio Valente of Portugal, the 2011 World Cup winner in the last 16. World Champion David Smith cruised through his pool in the BC1 event but was tripped up in the semi-final by eventual winner Panagiotis Soulanis of Greece. Smith recovered to take bronze from Russia’s Mikhail Gutnik.
The BC3 Pair of Jacob Thomas, Scott McCowan and Jess Hunter also went into the event World ranked number one. However a surprise loss in the semi-final to the Czech Republic and defeat to Portugal in the Bronze match meant they finished outside the medals.
Wales’s Jacob Thomas more than made up for it in the individual BC3 competition, winning his pool without dropping a point. He got the better of Paralympic silver medallist Jose Macedo of Portugal in the quarter final before brushing aside Belgium’s Peter Cilissen in the semi. He met Armando Costa of Portugal in the final and took the Gold with a 5-2 victory to cap a fantastic competition. Scott McCowan of Scotland also came through his pool with ease but came up against the World number 2 Grigorios Polychronidis in the last 16 and lost out 4-1 in a tense game. Jess Hunter was in Polychronidis’s group and failed to come through, winning one game but losing two.
The BC4 Pair of Stephen McGuire, Kieran Steer and Evie Edwards fell at the last hurdle after a tie break defeat by Slovakia in the final after the match finished 4-4. They had beaten Spain and Russia twice to get to the final but had to be content with the Silver medal.
Kieran Steer (pictured) went one better in the BC4 Individual competition to win Gold. The World number 19 defied his ranking and topped his pool. He met GB’s Evie Edwards in the quarter final. Edwards had produced one of the upsets of the tournament in winning her pool, toppling World number two Samuel Andrejcik 7-0. Steer won a tight game 5-3 before beating Hungary’s Laszlo Hegedus by the same score in the semi-final. It was GB versus Slovakia again in the final but Steer beat Robert Durkovic 5-2 to claim Gold. Stephen McGuire was beaten by eventual Bronze medallist Domingos Vieira of Portugal.
GB topped the medal table by some margin and will be looking to take that form into the World Open in Poland in June before the prize of direct qualification to Rio awaits in July at the European Team and Pair Championships to be held in Guildford on the 25th and 26th of July.
BC1 David Smith (Eastleigh, England living in Swansea, Wales)
BC2 Nigel Murray MBE (Leamington Spa, England
BC2 Joshua Rowe (Perth, Scotland)
BC2 Claire Taggart (Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland)
BC3 Jacob Thomas (Pembrokeshire, Wales)
BC3 Scott McCowan (Ayrshire, Scotland)
BC3 Jess Hunter (Staines, England)
BC4 Kieran Steer (Fife, Scotland)
BC4 Stephen McGuire (Hamilton, Scotland)
BC4 Evie Edwards (Suffolk, England)
GB Medal winners
BC1/BC2 Team – David Smith, Nigel Murray MBE, Joshua Rowe, Claire Taggart
BC2 Individual – Nigel Murray MBE
BC3 Individual – Jacob Thomas
BC4 Individual – Kieran Steer
BC2 Individual – Joshua Rowe
BC4 Pair – Stephen McGuire, Kieran Steer, Evie Edwards
BC1 Individual – David Smith