The Boccia UK squad will travel to Madrid this weekend for the first competition of 2018.
The BISFed European Regional Open will take place in Pinto with competition from the 27th to 31st March. The squad have been training hard over the winter since the successful European Championships in October 2017 that saw David Smith, Jamie McCowan and Stephen McGuire all crowned individual winners.
Following Madrid the squad will travel to Canada in April and Portugal in July before the year's main event, the World Boccia Championships in Liverpool in August.
First though they must brush off any cobwebs in Spain in a field that contains a mix of newcomers and world class players.
David Smith and Ricky Stevenson will compete in the BC1 class with Welshman Stevenson making his international debut following a strong showing at the 2017 UK Championships. He pushed World Number 1 Smith hard at that competition and will be keen to make an impression at this level. Smith's main opposition with be the Netherlands Paralympic Silver medallist Daniel Perez.
The highest ranked player in the BC2 competition is Bernd Meints of the Netherlands at 10 so there is an opportunity for Claire Taggart and Will Hipwell to make an impression on the competition.
Leading the way in the BC3 event is Greek Paralympic legend Greg Polychronidis, the current World number 2. He is not unbeatable however as Scott McCowan overcame him at last years equivalent event in Sant Cugat. World number 4 Jamie McCowan and 10th ranked Patrick Wilson will also be in the mix for medals.
Stephen McGuire tops the BC4 world rankings with Laszlo Hedegus of Hungary his closest challenger at 18. However half the field of twenty are new athletes requiring classification so there is the potential for a bright new talent to emerge. Evie Edwards and Louis Saunders, both taking a break from studying for their degree and GCSE's respectively, will also have the chance to shine, with Edwards having beaten Hedegus to Bronze in Sant Cugat in 2017.
More information on the competition can be found at https://regionalbocciapinto2018.com/en/