On the way to Tokyo 2020
Portugal will be present at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games with the maximum number of athletes, which means that it has managed to guarantee the collective places of BC3 pairs, BC4 pairs and BC1 / BC2 teams. For those less familiar with the sport and the process of paralympic qualification in the bocce sport, the qualification is done primarily through pairs and teams, with 10 places available for each of these divisions of the game. The pair / team of the organizing country and the 2019 continental champions of the different regions are automatically calculated, which in the case of boccia are 3: europe, asia / oceania and america / africa, thus finding 4 participating countries. The remaining 6 places are attributed to the 6 countries not included in the previous ones with the best world ranking.
Since in the European Championship in Seville 2019 Portugal did not achieve any European title in the pairs and teams divisions, the Paralympic qualification started to depend on its position in the world ranking. In summary, the score for the world ranking takes into account the scores obtained in the tests over the 2 years prior to the current date. For the Paralympic qualification, the International Paralympic Committee stipulated that it would consider the ranking of December 31, 2019 and as such, they would count the 4 best scores in the tests carried out between January 1, 2018 and the stipulated date.
As for the pairs / team from Portugal, the route to qualification was quite different, and as such we will make a short summary of that route for each of them.
Over the past 2 years of competition, the BC3 pair has had a somewhat inconsistent course and with globally lower ratings than it had been presenting over the past few years. After some experiences in the constitution of the pair, there was a regulatory change on the part of BISFED regarding the mandatory use of a female player in at least a partial match and it was necessary to reorganize the process again. In 8 events carried out over these 2 years, the BC3 pair from Portugal only managed to overcome the group stage in 3 competitions and some doubts about the qualification started to be launched. After a year of 2018 with no medal achieved, 2019 would have to be substantially better. Although in two of the 2019 events they did not pass the group stage (including the European Championship) and fell to the 15th place in the world ranking, the points accumulated with the silver medal in Olbia left some hope maintaining Portugal with a punctual margin to qualify. With no margin of error, they entered the 2019 Póvoa de Varzim World Open with only one chance… to win the gold medal! At this time it was not time to look at the recent past and, game by game, Portugal was doing its part and showing that it can win against any opponent. Despite having only one defeat in the group stage, the BC3 pair was dependent on a match between opponents whose outcome ended up guaranteeing Portugal’s access to the final semi-finals of the competition. Certain of what they wanted, Portugal caught the perfect opponent in the semi-finals once they faced Russia in the final, qualifying would no longer be possible. In a very safe game, Portugal went on to the final that ended up winning against Hong Kong (No. 2 in the world ranking) and in this way achieved what many already considered lost. In addition to listening to the Portuguese anthem again in a BC3 pair event, enough points were also guaranteed to guarantee the place for the most important competition of all.
The BC4 pair also had a somewhat irregular course, however 4 medals in 8 events over these 2 years more than fully justify their Paralympic qualification. After a good start in 2018 with a 3rd place in the regional open of Madrid, the BC4 pair failed to pass the group stage in any other race throughout the year, and as such they knew that 2019 would be important to exchange the points for 2017 that would be eliminated throughout the year. Despite the great performances in 2019 having managed to guarantee medals in the first 3 races of the year: silver at the World Open in Montreal, bronze in the European Championship in Seville and bronze in the regional open in Olbia, the collected points were not enough to guarantee the qualification Paralympic before the Póvoa de Varzim World Open, and as such this event had an important character since 4 of the 5 countries would still be present with mathematical chances of guaranteeing the 2 qualifying places in dispute. Croatia was away from this fight early and in Group A Canada showed great consistency in the results. As for Portugal, he came in very strong to demonstrate a great desire to resolve the situation of his qualification with 2 excellent victories against Hong Kong and Thailand, numbers 2 and 3 of the world ranking. However, a defeat against Ukraine made the group’s last game against Germany an early final for the Paralympic qualification as it would be a direct dispute between these two teams. In the end, Portugal won clearly and put an end to the doubt regarding the qualification, closing the group of qualified with Canada that would win the Portuguese competition. At the World Open Portugal, he would finish in 4th place in the final classification.
The BC1 / BC2 team had a slightly more regular course, having mathematically guaranteed their Paralympic qualification even before the Póvoa de Varzim World Open. Over these 2 years, in 8 events held, Portugal passed the group stage in 6 of them and the gold medal at the Regional Open in Olbia, the 4th place in the Dubai World Open and the 7th place in the Liverpool World Championship in 2018, guaranteed certain points that would later become decisive. In 2019, a brilliant silver medal in the European Championship and in the Regional Open of Olbia, would give exchanges of positive points and allow Portugal to guarantee the qualification early and face the last race of the year with greater tranquility. In this last race of the year, the Portuguese team was unable to pass the group stage, finishing in 5th place in the final classification, yet the main objective was guaranteed.
In this way, Portugal will be present at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at full strength and it will certainly be a selection to take into account in the fight for medals. A noteworthy note is the fact that, at a time when boccia is expanding and is increasingly competitive, among the 16 countries qualified for the Paralympic games for the pairs and teams competitions, there are only 5 nations that will participate in the 3 pairs and teams divisions and Portugal is one of them! In addition to Portugal, the host country will also be in maximum form – Japan and also Brazil, Great Britain and Thailand.
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