Boccia first appeared at the 1984 Summer Paralympic Games in New York, USA. That year, the Paralympics were split between two sites: Stoke Mandeville in the UK, which hosted athletes with spinal cord injuries while athletes with visual impairments, brain injury/stroke, amputees, and the “les autres” groups competed in New York.
Paralympic boccia is overseen by the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CPISRA). It is open to any athlete with a severe physical disability such as: high level quadriplegics, severe cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis and other similar disabilities. It was specifically developed as a competitive sport for individuals with disabilities, thus there is no counterpart for it at the Olympics.
Rules and Equipment Modifications/Adaptations
Boccia has three events; individual, pairs, and team of three. Athletes must kick, throw, or roll their ball as close to the white target ball known as the "jack" as possible. A score determined by "the side with the ball closest to the jack ball will score one point for each ball closer to the jack then the opponent's ball to the jack."
Each round consists of throwing six balls. In matches for individuals and/or a pair, four rounds are played. In a match for a team of three, six rounds are played. Whichever individual/team scores the most points, wins the match.
Because boccia is a sport for athletes with somewhat limited mobility, adaptations and modifications are allowed. These modifications are based on their disability and need to be approved during the classification evaluation.
Equipment modifications/adaptations include, but are not limited to:
- arm or mouth aids,
- and people who are considered a "sport assistant"
Sport Assistance includes:
- adjusting or stabilizing a wheelchair,
- and/or passing the ball to the player.
Every athlete needs to go through a classification evaluation. During this evaluation athletes are put through a physical and technical assessment. The physical assessment evaluates the nature of the disability itself. During the technical assessment, athletes are required to show the classifiers how they go about performing the necessary tasks involved in the sport.
There are four classifications; BC1 through BC4.
- BC1 refers to an individual who chooses to push the ball with his/her foot.
- BC2 consists of athletes who have "sufficient dexterity to manipulate and throw a ball" either overhand or underhand. (Not eligible for assistance.)
- BC3 are athletes who will "use assistive devices to propel the ball" due to the limited ability to pick up and or throw a ball.
- BC4 is considered the group of athletes with non cerebral origins, meaning the athlete does not have spasticity, ataxia, or athetosis. Athlete must have severely limited function, strength, and coordination in all extremities. (Examples of disabilities that could fall into this category include muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, or motor neuron diseases. Not eligible for assistance.)
While athletes are divided into disability classes like most other sports, it is the only summer Paralympic sport where men and women compete against each other.
International Paralympic Committee
Governing Body: Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association