Before the London 2012 Paralympic Games, I knew little of the sport boccia (pronounced bo-ch-a). I hadn’t heard of Great Britain captain Nigel Murray, twice a gold medal winner in the sport, nor of his Beijing team mates Dan Bentley, Zoe Robinson and David Smith, all international class players.
However, after a week watching the sport at ExCeL, a giant exhibition centre in the heart of the London docklands, I had discovered an absolute gem of a sport, one packed with tension and excitement, where a match can be won or lost by millimetres.
On the face of it, boccia is crown green bowls, with competitors in wheelchairs throwing or kicking their balls as close to a jack as possible on a 12.5 x 6 metre flat, smooth hard-court. Only there’s so much more to it than that.
To begin with, competitors are all disabled and split into four classifications. BC1, BC2 and BC3 classifications are for athletes with cerebral palsy, whilst BC4 is for competitors with motor skills disabilities affecting their movement.