Boccia was introduced to the Paralympic Games
in 1984. In the
Paralympics it is played by wheelchair athletes on a court measuring 12.5m by 6m. The balls
are made of leather and are slightly larger than a tennis ball. Boccia balls can be rolled, thrown, kicked
or released down a ramp. Athletes who are unable to propel the ball
independently have a sport assistant on the court and deliver the ball using the ramp.
The sport assistant is not allowed to look at the court or communicate with the athlete. The throwing area is divided into six rectangular
boxes in which the competitors must remain during play. The aim is to propel blue or red balls as
near as possible to “the Jack”. Each player, pair or team gets six balls in
each end. Individual and pair matches consist of four ends whilst team events are held over
six ends. The red team starts the opening end by playing
the jack followed by one of their own red balls, then the blue team plays their ball.
After both teams have played one ball the side whose ball is furthest from the jack
will continue to play until their ball lands closer to the Jack than the opposition’s
nearest ball. Boccia balls often get pushed on or knocked
out of court and as a result the score can change dramatically from one shot to the next. At the close of each end the side whose ball
is closest to the Jack scores one point and receives an additional point for each ball
that is closer to the Jack than any opposition ball. Boccia is one of the few sports where men and women compete with and against each other. Boccia requires strategy and
pin-point accuracy where just one good ball can make all the difference.