Boccia Inclusive” are very fortune in have Nigel Murray, the most successful British Boccia athlete of all time, talk to us about his remarkable achievements during his playing career, including the Team Bronze Medal he won this year in front of a Home Crowd at London 2012.
This Boccia legend will forever be remembered as the first Briton to win Gold in Paralympic Boccia. The four-time Paralympian has won 2 Gold Medals, Individual in Sydney 2000 and Team in Beijing 2008; a Individual Silver Medal, also in Beijing; and a Team Bronze Medal in recent Home Games.
I would like to begin by thanking Nigel for the opportunity to ask him about his relationship with Boccia and his thoughts on London 2012.
My current relationship with Boccia is that I am a member of the G.B. Squad and compete both individually (BC2 Class) and within the team, of which I am captain. I have also recently joined the board of England Boccia.
London 2012 Paralympic Games was in my opinion the greatest ever games. I feel this was primarily due to the excellent sporting facilities for all athletes and the incredible support we received from the British public, either by coming to watch at venues or through the media.
Before we dive into the latest Paralympic Games I would like to know a bit about your Boccia background. I have been on the Boccia scene for seven years and in all that time you have always been one of the top BC2s in the world. When did you first discover Boccia? How quick was your rise up through the ranks?
I first became aware of Boccia in the early 1990’s when I attended a Disability Sports Taster Day as part of my job role working for Social Services in Warwickshire. I first started competing in 1998, when I attended the Midlands Boccia Regional Championships, which I won, this enabled me to compete at the England National Finals later that year. The following year I was selected to compete for England at the World Cup in Argentina.
In your very first Paralympic Games in Sydney you won Gold in the Individual event, how did it feel being on the podium receiving your Medal? What was your very first International competition with GB? Do you still holds fond memories of it or is it just a haze? Was this the moment that spurred you on to compete in three more Paralympic Games?
In 2000 I was selected to compete for G.B. at the Sydney Paralympic Games where I became the first British Boccia player to win an individual gold medal at a Paralympics.
I have fond memories of my early international competitions, in particular my first Paralympics and first major medal. This was the start of my medal success at major international competitions and at present I currently have a grand total of 17 medals from both individual and team events, so certainly Sydney had a huge impact on my future career.
After disappoint in Athens 2004, you came back strong in Beijing, winning Individual Silver and Team Gold. You have previously described captaining GB to victory in the Team event as your proudest moment in Boccia, could you elaborate on this?
Athens was a huge disappointment for me personally, both individually and in the team. Our loss to Portugal (who went onto win gold) in the semi final, which was by millimetres on the last ball of the game, was the lowest point of my career. However, I believe this gave me the determination to come back stronger 4 years later and make amends in Beijing ! This we did in winning team gold in Beijing, my proudest moment and made even sweeter by the fact that we defeated Portugal in the final – Happy Days ! To win gold alongside Dan, David and Zoe will always be the greatest day of my playing career and to do it also playing for the greatest coach I have had the pleasure to play for, Jacqueline Lynn, made it a special occasion in my career.
Is winning Team Gold in Beijing still you proudest moment? If so, captaining GB in a Home Games must be a close second. The Home crowd were electric; I have never seen so many people watch Boccia before. Did the crowd help or hinder you?
It was always my dream after Beijing to compete in London and defend our team title. Unfortunately, we were unable to win Gold, however, the Team Bronze medal we did win felt as good as getting gold! This was due to the unbelievable support we received on court at the Excel Arena. In all the years I have competed I have never witnessed crowds or support like it at a Boccia competition, it made me proud to be British and represent my country at the greatest ever Paralympic Games. The passion of the support certainly lifted us throughout the competition and as a player I love to play in front of a crowd, which creates an atmosphere to perform in front of. London was also the first time in my career that my family had seen me play and in particular my mum, who saw us win both our pool matches, well, I dare not lose with her watching!
Describe you thoughts and feeling of the atmosphere inside the Olympic Stadium for Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Bet you never experienced anything like that before?
Parading out at a Paralympic Games is always a special moment for any athlete, but nothing could beat the noise when we went out into the Stadium in London – UNBELIEVABLE!!! I was so proud and honoured to be there, representing my country.
The GB BC1/2 Team sailed through to the Semi-finals but was over powered by an unbelievably strong Thailand Team. Was it difficult to pick yourselves up for the Bronze Match after that?
After losing to Thailand we were all gutted, not the fact that we lost, but the fact that we did not play anywhere near to the standard we all know we can. Although down after the loss we knew we had to pick ourselves up for the Bonze Medal match the following day, when our opponents would once again be Portugal! Prior to the game, I told myself this was the Gold Medal match and that I knew we were a better team than them. The rest they say is now history!
After coming through the Bronze Match as victors the Team took away a Medal from a Home Games. What did this mean to you?
Winning the Bronze was unbelievable, as I have already said it felt like the final. The crowd noise when we won will always stay with me, as will going onto the Podium to get our Medal and the celebrations afterwards!
During my time watching the Boccia in the Paralympics I noticed a shift in dominance since Beijing. The Far Eastern countries of China, Korea and Thailand dominated BC1,2 and 3, was this a factor in your shock Quarter-final exit in the Individual event?
The Asian playing countries are certainly now the leading Boccia nations across many of the classes, but I still believe G.B. is right up there with them. I was disappointed to lose my individual quarterfinal game, as I did not play up to the level I know is my usual game. That’s sport I guess, I know there is never such a thing as an easy game and at times the balls do not always run how you want them too, that’s life and you have to move on, but that loss really hurt a great deal!
Before we conclude our interview I like to take this opportunity to inquire your plans for the future. Before the start of London 2012 you vowed it was going to be your last, is this still true? If so, what is next for Nigel Murray? Will you remain in Boccia in another capacity other than playing?
London was certainly my last Paralympic Games as an athlete, however, I have yet to decide whether I will compete at the Europeans next year, but that is a decision to be made in the coming months with team management. So it’s a case of watch this space. Either way, I would love to stay involved in some capacity in the future, otherwise I will be cheering from the side.
Thank you so much Nigel for answering my questions. It is so fascinating to get a personal insight into Boccia from an absolute legend of the sport. It is also amazing to hear you talk about the early stages of your career. Congratulations on you Bronze Medal and I wish you all the best for the future.
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