Different ball game: Paralympic sport Boccia is slowly finding its footing in India | Bombay News

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MUMBAI: Getting sports authorities to take him seriously is a martial art that former taekwondo player Jaspreet Singh has been trying to master for five years. “Are you really the secretary?” Officials often ask Singh, 27, a flexible boy from Bathinda who doesn’t fit the gray-haired, paunch-nehru-jacket-jacket mold of Indian sports federation leaders. Furthermore, the perception of Punjab youth as drug addicted applicants for Canadian passports does not help Singh who has to make presentations and juggle glasses to establish his legitimacy as the founder of the Para Boccia Sports Welfare Society, the body India’s leader for boccia – the only Paralympic sport organization other than goalball that does not have an Olympic equivalent.
By now, Singh is accustomed to the masquerade of using paperweights and glasses as substitutes for red, blue and white or “jack” leather boccia balls while introducing precision sport to netas, athletes and the like. Indians who almost always mispronounce ‘pétanque’. A cousin of French boules, boccia – one of the oldest sports with roots dating back to ancient Greece – is designed for athletes with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and other neurological disorders. Wheelchair players use their hands, feet, or assistive devices such as ramps to deliver the leather balls which are filled with plastic pellets. Among his flamboyant stars is Briton David Smith, a red and blue Mohawk athlete, who recently won a gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympic Games after beating golden-haired Malaysian Chew Wei Lun, aka “Silent Killer “, which won the prize for his country. first silver boccia.
The missed opportunity here is obvious to Singh. “There are 22 sports at the Paralympic Games, but Indian players only represent the country in nine,” says Singh, who stumbled upon boccia at the regional Taek Wondo championship in Seoul in 2014. Intrigued, he tumbled down. a digital terrier which quickly led him to seek official recognition from the International Boccia Sports Federation in London. This is how the governing body of Boccia in India was headquartered in Punjab in 2016. So far it has hosted five national tournaments in various states and star player Rahul Dumpa from Visakhapatnam has even represented India. at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. The lack of sponsors, however, means Dumpa has to fill a tennis ball with sand and use sheets of cardboard as makeshift ramps during practice.
“The international quality leather bullets and the ramp cost over Rs 3 lakh,” says Dumpa, a former Navy man who still pays the medical bills worth Rs 7 lakh that followed after his mother and her grandmother tested positive for Covid last year. Dumpa makes 40,000 rupees a month selling diamonds for an international company over the phone – a night job that came to him after an accident during Holi in 2017 made him quadruplegic. Boccia came into her life months later, after the love of her life married someone else.
“A friend told me about the game being played at a nearby church. I picked it up over time,” says Dumpa, who loved the sport that reminded him of “gotiyan” (marbles), won national gold medals and ended up stealing. nervously at the Para Asian Games in Indonesia. “The able-bodied athletes and para-athletes work their entire lives to qualify for international events. And I was here, a man in a wheelchair sitting next to bigwigs like Deepa Malik, the first Indian woman to win a Paralympic Games medal, ”recalls Dumpa, who also felt overshadowed by players such as a seven-time gold medalist from Korea. “He told me he had been playing the game for 15 years,” Dumpa says.
At first glance, boccia looks simple. Throw one or more of the six colored balls closer to a white target ball than your opponent. “It’s not easy. It’s like chess,” says Nivran Pama, 25, an MBA student from Chandigarh, amazed by the technical precision of Australian players during a competition in Dubai in 2019. Besides the futility to train with “jugaadu equipment”, the event taught Pama – who spent Rs 2 lakh to travel to the event with his mother – about the need for government funding. “Many players need accompanying persons to help them during the game. Covering their expenses with existing medical expenses is not possible,” explains Pama.
This is why Joseph Roderaz from Mumbai considers himself lucky to be working with an airline which has covered the travel expenses for him and his three crew members: his nephew, his neighbor and his assistant. Meanwhile, Dumpa – who is trying to contact authorities in Andhra Pradesh – concedes he’s had more luck selling diamonds.


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