Sports week: 10 things to know about boccia

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It may sound simple – throw a ball this close to the target “jack” ball to win. But the ability to control your nerves, strategize on the best angle to throw, or even refocus after each end can make all the difference between a Paralympic medal or none.

Here are the basics of boccia before Tokyo 2020:

1. Boccia is one of two sports on the Paralympic program that has no Olympic equivalent. The other sport is goalball.

© Getty

2. He made his Paralympic debut in New York 1984, when 19 athletes represented five different countries: Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Portugal and the United States. There have been five medal events, with the United States leading the medal table with five, including two individual golds for Craig Clifton and Nancy Anderson.

3. Paralympic boccia was originally intended for athletes with cerebral palsy, but now includes athletes who have any type of neurological impairment that affects their motor function.

© OIS

4. The sport is played on a flat, smooth surface, where players must throw or roll colored balls as close as possible to a white target ball, known as a “jack”. The player, pair or team with the most balls near the jack is the winner.

© Getty

5. Individual and pair matches consist of four ends, while team matches have six ends. Each athlete, pair or team throws six balls per end. After each end, the athlete, pair or team with the ball closest to the jack receives one point, and an additional point for each ball that is closer to the jack than the opponent’s.

© Cicéron Rodrigues / IPC

6. Athletes are divided into four classes, BC1-4, where all players compete in wheelchairs due to a severe coordination disorder affecting the legs and arms. Some players play with their feet.

© Lima 2019

7. Players in the BC3 class have severe disabilities that affect all limbs and can therefore use an assistive device such as a ramp or a pointer to throw the ball.

© Sporting Wales

8. Athletes in classes BC1, BC3 and BC4 may have an assistant which acts as an extension of the athlete. For example, the BC3 athlete’s assistant can take instructions from the athlete such as adjusting the height and position of the ramp. But they can’t see the field during the game, which makes communication key!

© Getty

9. Boccia has roots in Greece, where players threw large stones at a stone target. There were also artefacts and wall engravings relating to a similar form of sport that were found as early as 5200 BC during the excavation of tombs in Egypt. The sport was also played in markets and on the streets in the Middle Ages, and the word “boccia” is derived from the Italian meaning of bowling.

© OIS

ten. Boccia athletes can be penalized for three different reasons:

• Positioning and turn-taking violations result in the award of a penalty shot to the opponent.

• A retraction occurs when there is a violation in the act of throwing the ball. This ball does not count and is removed from the field

• A warning, or yellow card, is issued in the event of a serious and deliberate disturbance. A second warning results in disqualification.

© Sporting Wales


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