With the 2020 Paralympics just over the horizon it is a big year for Larne’s Claire Taggart.
Having already medalled at Boccia events in Zagreb and Prague, Taggart is hoping to defend her UK Championship title this weekend at the Antrim Forum as the competition is hosted by Disability Sport Northern Ireland for the first time.
While Taggart admits the goal is to attend a second Paralympics after being part of the Great Britain team in Rio three years ago she knows there is a lot of hard work ahead.
“The plan is to qualify for Tokyo but we’re along way off that yet but we still have lots of time.
“ The UK is definitely part of that in the run up to the European Championships in Sevilla and if I can start strong with the British and continue the form I’ve had from Zagreb and Prague I think we’ll be in a good position.
“And I’m good to knuckle down, work hard and do everything I can to get there,” said Taggart.
“Zagreb is probably my highest achievement yet and it has knocked my world ranking up to 20th and the third top female and I’m thrilled with that.
“It is something that I and my family are very proud of and it was quiet nice to be the first person to get an individual medal for Northern Ireland.
“Prague was an interesting one. It was the Czech Open I won an individual bronze and a team silver and it was my first time captaining the team as well so it was really pleased with that.
“The hectic schedule, we worked it really well and I think we worked well as a team and my individual bronze topped the weekend off.
“ But I came straight home into a training camp so I hope to continue that into this weekend and hope to retain my British title.
“I do feel the pressure, I’m more nervous about this one that any of the internationals I have been to this year and I just need to knuckle down and ignore everything that is going on externally and focus on what I’m doing what I can control. I think there is a little bit of pressure with it being at home.”
“But I think this is a really good opportunity to show and prove that we are one of the developing home nations and that it should be good for Northern Ireland.”
Taggart is hoping the UK Championships sponsored by TBC Conversions and Antrim and Newtonabbey Borough Council will not only showcase the local talented Boccia players but Northern Ireland itself.
“It is a great opportunity to show what we have on offer here and it can be used for hopefully maybe an Open or a BISFed event and to show the beauty of Northern Ireland and show my Boccia UK team mates that I travel to regularly what Northern Ireland is like because a lot of them haven’t been here before.”