A very warm welcome awaited Scottish Disability Sport at the new sportscotland Inverclyde Centre in Largs for the inaugural Scottish Boccia International Open event. SDS was delighted to host this event in conjunction with North Ayrshire Council and sportscotland. This event was a perfect opportunity to showcase this excellent facility at an event tailor-made for the fully accessible residential venue, which is now able to host up to 120 wheelchair users. The centre was at capacity with players, assistants and coaches from Scotland and neighbouring countries competing, featuring many of the very best players in the UK and from further afield taking part in a teams, pairs and individual sections for the first time in Scotland. This represents another major development for the sport of boccia in Scotland in attracting international-level competition to these shores.
Competition was fierce throughout with Friday witnessing some high quality Teams & Pairs events played to a finish, followed by Individual events on Saturday and Sunday. The Scottish BC2/2 players Reegan Stevenson and Callum Glasgow joined forces with Northern Ireland to finish in bronze position behind the team from Ireland in silver and the Boccia UK team in gold.
The strength in depth in the BC3 Pairs section was formiddable and so it proved as the two teams from Boccia UK battled it out with represenatives from the English Scorpion and Viper Academies – who had both impressively topped their respective groups. The Boccia UK pairs – featuring the mighty Scots players Patrick Wilson and the McCowan brothers – Jamie and Scott – drew on their consdierable top level experience to contest the final with the English pair of Jess Hunter and Rich Amos defeating their Scottish stablemates in a formidable performance.
Scottish interest continued in the BC4 Pairs section where Scotland’s Peter McGuire and Ross Munro battled against Evie Edwards and Louis Saunders across the best of three fixtures. The Scottish team outperformed all expectations to win all three matches.
In the individual sections Reegan Stevenson claimed his second bronze of the weekend qualifying from an extremely close group in second place on points difference. This meant he met Paralympic Gold Medallist David Smith MBE and, despite winning the first end and remaining competitive throughout, lost out on a final place. Reegan’s determination to complete the bronze set won through as he managed the match v Ireland’s Niamh Dunphy superbly to ease through to claim the podium place. Smith went on and claimed gold in victory over his teamate Tia Ruel.
Ireland’s Beijing Paralympian Padraic Moran eased to the BC 2 title and was only really stretched by England’s Reshad Saraj who defeated him in a tight group match, yet failed to qualify on the points difference as three players finished the group stage on equal points. Scotland’s Callum Glasgow struggled in a strong field but this experience will give him some targets to aspire to in squad training. Boccia UK’s Will Hipwell and England’s Tim Hayes completed the medals in the BC2 section.
The largest entry was in the BC3 section and the top seeds in each of the four groups were members of the UK Boccia Squad and were expected to qualify for the semi-finals. However, players from other countries had other ideas and England’s William Arnott and England Scorpion’s Cecilia Turk had other ideas defeating Patrick Wilson and Scott McCowan respectively in the group stages. This left one unseeded semi-final and a seeded semi-final in the latter stages. William Arnott continued his fine form in comfortably seeing off Cecilia to make the final whilst Jess Hunter defeated Jamie McCowan – who has been enjoying a great year – in the other semi-final. The final was a thrilling affair and resulted in a final end shootout which William Arnott won in front of the large crowd who had assembled.
This only left the BC4 section where five players competed in a round robin tournament. Peter McGuire and Ross Munro were hoping to take their impressive Pairs form into the Individual event against the strength of Boccia UK’s Evie Edwards and Louis Saunders alongside Harry Thompson, competing as an Independent. Evie and Louis shrugged off their Pairs disappointment to set the early pace in the section closely followed by Harry. Peter’s only victory was against Ross, whilst the young Scot found the going tough against the talented quartet in the section. It came down to the final fixtures and Evie emerged victorious with a 7-2 win over Louis, whilst Harry kept his nerve in a tie-break to claim the scalp of Peter.
Thanks to a successful bid to the Big Lottery People’s Project a number of new Boccia sessions will be rolled out around the country with a view to identifying the next generation of players in this sport. The national Boccia Engagement Days on Sunday 26 November in Easterhouse, Glasgow and Saturday 24th March (venue TBC) will support this aim so this excellent sport can continue to grow and strengthen its infrastructure in Scotland.
Thanks to all players, federations, officials (especially Steve Furber who stepped into the breach at the eleventh hour to assume the role of Head Referee) and volunteers for their support of this event, it was great to feature high quality competition in an enjoyable environment at a phenomenal facility.