Boccia trio targeting medal haul in Peru
Bermuda’s boccia players have set their sights on medal glory at the Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru.
Steve Wilson, Yushae DeSilva-Andrade and Omar Hayward make up three quarters of the Bermuda contingent, alongside wheelchair sprinter Jessica Lewis, at the international multi-sport event in South America, which officially commenced yesterday and will run through until Sunday, September 1.
Wilson and DeSilva-Andrade have previous experience at the Games, having represented Bermuda in Toronto four years ago, while for Hayward the event marks his debut in the competition, having already gained major international experience including at the 2018 world Championships in Liverpool.
It is that previous experience that coach Troy Farnsworth believes could prove key in the trio’s search for medals, with Wilson competing in the BC1 classification pool and DeSilva-Andrade and Hayward going head to head as part of the BC4 classification pool, starting on Thursday.
“The guys have been training incredibly hard five to six days a week in preparation and we’re hoping for some really strong results,” he said.
“We know the competition is going to be extremely tough, we are only a small nation but we have had some success in the past few years internationally and so we’re hopeful.
“The guys are well prepared and all looking forward to the challenge.
“Steve and Yushae competed in the last Parapan American Games and so both have previous experience in the competition and for Omar this will be his first appearance, but I’m sure he’ll relish it.
“All of our players have a chance of winning a medal, that’s certainly a realistic aim if they perform to their highest ability, it’s not out of the question.
“It will come down to who can hold their nerve, perform the best and execute their shots on the day.
“However, we know there are top players from around the world, who have been competing in this sport for a lot longer than we have in very developed programmes.
“We have some very tough competition, but all our players have pushed top-ranked players in the past and if they’re at their best, they can more than hold their own on the day.
“Getting through the pool stage as either one of the top four or eight finishers and into the final is the first aim and then if we can get a medal, it will be an added bonus.
“It’s not just about the sport, it’s an incredible experience and these guys are showing people that even being in a wheelchair, you can play elite-level sport and do anything.
“They travel abroad and represent their country and they’re showing people with disabilities that you can achieve anything you want.”
For Wilson, who at the age of 70, upset the odds to clinch gold at the Buenos Aires Regional Open in Argentina last year, overcoming the sport’s top players from North, Central and South America, he is adamant about his ambition for the Games.
“I’m going for gold, that’s what I want to go for,” said Wilson. “I’ve played most of the guys out there and beaten them before, it is just a case of fine-tuning my game and make sure I hit my shots.
“I love the Pan Am Games and I’m just itching to get back there and do what I do.
“I’ve been before and it was huge for me back then. I can learn from that experience and do what I have to do this time around.
“All three of us stand a chance of winning a medal and it would be incredible if we could do that.
“It’s always special to represent Bermuda and I take huge pride in representing my country.”
Being able to represent the country is also something that is extremely important to DeSilva-Andrade, who wants to use her appearances on the world stage to continue being an inspiration to the younger generations.
“It’s always special representing Bermuda because people don’t always see people like us in the community, so to represent the country on a big stage is a big deal,” said DeSilva-Andrade, who has competed at multiple World Championships, since taking up the sport at the age of 12.
“I definitely want to be an inspiration. We can help younger generations growing up to show them they can achieve whatever they want to.
“I’m really excited about going to the Pan Am Games this time around because back in 2015 I was in the wrong division and so this time around I’m a little more hopeful of doing well.
“I know what to expect after 2015 and so I’m a lot less nervous about competing, it’s more a case of excitement this time.
“I’m hopeful of placing in the medals, that would be amazing.”
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