Norwich boccia club offers a game for all
06:30 10 April 2012
It may be a paralympic sport but boccia is truly a sport for all. KATE SCOTTER discovered more.
Boccia is a game designed specifically for athletes with a disability affecting locomotor function – but at a recreational level, it can be a game for men and women, with or without a disability.
Pronounced ‘bot-cha’, the game is a tough test of nerve, tactics and skill.
Believed to have Ancient Greek origins, it is played on a rectangular court by individuals, pairs and teams.
The aim of the sport is to propel balls so they finish as close as possible to a special white target ball, known as the ‘jack’. Each player, pair or team gets six balls on each end. At the close of each end, the athlete, pair or team whose ball is closest to the jack scores one point, and receives an additional point for every ball that sits closer to the jack than the opposition’s closest ball. Individual and pairs matches consist of four ends, while team events have six ends.
Boccia is played by wheelchair athletes with cerebral palsy and related locomotor conditions, with players required to be in a seated position within a throwing box at one end of the playing court.
In Norfolk, a boccia club did not exist until Catherine Meijer, who has cerebral palsy, decided to set one up.
Now 27, Miss Meijer, from Norwich, first started the club when she returned from residential college in Hampshire seven years ago.
The recreational level club, based at Sewell Park College in Norwich, is made up of both able-bodied and disabled players and gives members somewhere to socialise.
Miss Meijer’s mum Ann, who lives in Honingham, near Dereham, said: “Boccia can be played at any level. It was set up for people with cerebral palsy but it can be played at a recreational level and it can give people who are able-bodied and disabled the chance to play a sport on an even playing field. Hopefully this year’s Paralympic Games will help raise its profile.”
Great Britain are the defending Paralympic champions at the team event in boccia. The sport was first introduced to the Paralympic programme at the New York and Stoke Mandeville Games in 1984.
Today, there are seven medal events on the programme, all of which are open to athletes of either gender. The sport, which is currently played competitively in more than 50 countries worldwide, is played by wheelchair athletes with cerebral palsy and related locomotor conditions, with players required to be in a seated position within a throwing box at one end of the playing court. The classification system ensures an even playing field for athletes to compete against others with similar disabilities.
There are four classes in total. BC1 class athletes may have an assistant to perform actions such as handing them the boccia balls, BC2 class athletes require no assistance on court and BC3 class athletes deliver each ball by using a ramp and have a sports assistant who they instruct to position the ramp for each delivery. BC4 athletes often use an underhand swing to release the ball.
Miss Meijer, who lives in John Grooms Court care home in Sprowston, said: “I like the fact that it is competitive and everyone gets into it.”
For London 2012, the boccia competition will be held at ExCeL, a multi-purpose events venue that will also host a number of other Paralympic and Olympic sports.