Today I continue a series of articles promoting the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, and the athletes that will be competing for Team USA. The games will begin August 29th
I speak Bocce! And you don’t have to be C3PO to play. Sorry Mr. Lucas, it is not a language, it is a game. I learned how to play years ago from a friend I worked with. Basically you toss out a little white ball, called a pallino, or jack. Then each player tosses a colored ball towards the little white ball getting as close as you can get. You can also knock another player out and away. It is a great game to play in the warm weather out in the back yard. With roots on ancient Greece and adapted by the Italians, it has been further tailored for the Paralympics, and is called Boccia. The sport is played in more than 50 countries by those with cerebral palsy or related neurological conditions involving a wheelchair.
Part of the Paralympic Games since 1984, and was originally presented as a sport for athletes with cerebral palsy, but is now open to male and female athletes with severe locomotor disabilities of a cerebral or non-cerebral origin, including individuals with CP, stroke, traumatic brain injury, high-level spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, ALS and arthrogryposisdisabilities. Boccia tests the athlete's coordination, accuracy, concentration, and ability to strategize. The game has no counterpart in the Olympic Games.
Boccia is played indoors on a flat, smooth surface. There are singles, pairs and team completions. Athletes throw, kick or use an assistive device to propel leather balls as close as possible to the jack. There are six red balls and six blue balls. In an individual match each player throws six balls.
One of the best is from our back yard. Topeka boccia player Austin Hanson has been ranked the number one player in the country for seventeen years. He continues his dominance, winning gold in singles and pairs competition at the boccia National Championships recently in Chicago, his fifth in a row. He is ranked 21st in the whole world.
Hanson graduated from Seaman High and still lives in our Capitol City when he is not traveling the world playing a sport he dominates. He is scheduled to play in the singles competition in London on September 5. He is only American to qualify for boccia Paralympics this time around, but it is his third time, so I like his odds. “I was so excited when I heard I’d made it,” Hanson said in an automated message he type in with his nose through a communication device. “I’d been waiting to find out since last November.” Hanson has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, and uses a ramp and head halo with a grip to roll the balls into play. Hanson has lost only once individually on the national level in the past seven years.
It’s an honor to represent the U.S. in London,” said Hanson, “London will be great. I am really looking forward to being there. But what I really want is to medal. I have trained hard for 20 years to do this, and it’s my time now.”
Independence, Inc is a local nonprofit organization that provides assistance to people with disabilities through advocacy, peer support, training, transportation, community education to live life independently. Brenda Brown is the Director of Development and Marketing for Independence, Inc.