Nick Taylor competes in Sao Paolo. (Photo: Igor Goulart/ANDE)
SAO PÃULO, BRAZIL – Team USA’s Austin Hanson (Topeka, Kansas) and Nick Taylor (Wichita, Kansas) put on impressive performances to advance out of individual pool play in the men’s BC3 and BC4 classifications, respectively, at the World Boccia Americas Regional Championships in São Paulo, Brazil. Hanson and Taylor each fell in the quarterfinals of their classifications and while Taylor’s tournament is over, Hanson will turn his attention to team play, which begins Sunday.
It was the first competition in more than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the World Boccia schedule. Team USA’s head coach Kathy Brinker said she was impressed with the level of play from her athletes, particularly Hanson and Taylor, but also Marck Harrison (Columbus, Ohio) and Michele Lynch (Westmont, Illinois), who each barely missed the knockout/playoff rounds in their classifications. Lynch also recorded her first international tournament win in a big way, defeating Brazil’s Natali de Faria, the world’s third-ranked women’s BC2 athlete.
“Our play in individual rounds was solid,” Brinker said. “Tactically all players looked sharp in their play as we returned to competition after two years. We look forward to continuous improvement technically with our players after the restart of our sport.”
Taylor, who narrowly missed the semifinal round after falling 3-5 to Canadian Marco in the quarterfinals, opened his tournament with a 4-3 victory against Argentina’s Renato Garcia. His other pool play match was a 1-11 loss against Colombia’s Duban Cely, the eventual winner of the pool.
“It was a great feeling being able to get back onto the court,” Taylor said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to play due to COVID, so it was a tremendous feeling being able to get back. This is my best overall performance in an international event so far, not only to make it to the knockout round, but to compete with one of the best in the world . I lost, but just barely, and have lots of good things to build on for the future.”
In the men’s BC3 division, Hanson also won his opening match 5-2 against Faber Vanegas before a tight 2-3 loss to Cristobal Aranda. Hanson dropped his quarterfinal match to Canadian Dean Acosta 10-1.
Lynch put together the best international result of her young boccia career, with the win over de Faria, who would win the pool, the highlight. She barely missed the quarterfinals after falling to Denisse Padilla Martin and Joselyn Leon.
Harrison’s two narrow losses to Michael Mercer and Jonathan Aquino put the men’s BC2 quarterfinals just out of reach. Women’s BC3 athlete Natalie Chastain (Oak Park, Illinois) suffered two opening round defeats to Evelyn de Oliveira and María , but finished her individual tournament on a high note with a 7-0 rout of Eimy Tanchez. In the men’s BC1 division, American Wyatt Struxness (San Antonio, Texas) dropped 1-5 and 1-4 first and second round matches to Eduardo Sanchez Reyes and Lance Cryderman, respectively. Henry Sawyer (Callahan, Florida), competing in the men’s BC4 division alongside Taylor, finished third in his pool. After losing to Eliseu dos Santos and Iulian Ciobanu, Sawyer concluded his individual tournament with a 5-2 victory over Leonel Arellano to round out Team USA’s results.
Hanson, Chastain, Struxness, Lynch and Harrison continue their quest for a medal and an automatic bid to the 2022 World Boccia World Championships on Sunday. Hanson and Chastain will team up as a pair, while Struxness, Lynch and Harrison will combine to represent Team USA in the team tournament.
For media inquiries and photo requests, please contact Kristen Gowdy at Kristen.Gowdy@usopc.org.