Not all Olympic sports have a Paralympic equivalent, but just two Paralympic disciplines – goalball and boccia – do not have an Olympic counterpart. Similar to petanque, boccia is all about precision and dexterity. It is played by athletes in wheelchairs who have any kind of severe impairment that affects motor function. Long played for fun, the sport first appeared at the Paralympic Games in 1984, allowing athletes with severe disabilities to take part in their national teams.
Named after the Italian word for ‘ball”, boccia was originally developed for people with cerebral palsy. The sport has since expanded and is now played by athletes with other types of locomotor dysfunction in 75 countries all over the world.
Brief overview of the rules
Boccia is a mixed sport played indoors on a 12.5m x 6m court. Each player starts each round or ‘end’ with six balls, which they throw or roll as close as possible to a small white ball called the ‘jack’. Individual and pairs matches consist of four ends, while matches played by teams of three consist of six ends.
Athletes are classified into one of four categories according to their disability. Those with the most severe impairments are eligible for assistance such as wheelchair stabilisation, a ramp to roll the ball, pointers or a sport assistant. Sport assistants keep their back to the court during the ends. They are present to carry out the players’ orders and are not allowed to advise them or even turn around to watch play.
Cerebral palsy and similar impairments, severe impairment of all four limbs.
International boccia federation
Boccia International Sports Federation (BISFED): www.bisfed.com/
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