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London 2012: The intriguing rules of Paralympic sport, Boccia

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Vaughan | 09:41 UK time, Friday, 4 May 2012

Boccia photo courtesy of the GB Boccia Federation

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Boccia is one of the lesser known sports in the Paralympic line-up, and features some of the 'most disabled' athletes taking part in the Games.

Variously described as being like boules, Pétanque or the more widely known Bowls, it was originally introduced to the Paralympics as a game for people with cerebral palsy. Over the years it's been extended to include players with a variety of disabilities affecting motor skills.

Though most of the players of the sport can propel the ball themselves, intriguingly those in the BC3 Boccia class cannot. They use a state of the art lightweight ramp to help them aim, but this isn't the only way the sport is made more accessible to the more disabled of players.

Speaking on Ouch! - the BBC's disability talk show which can be downloaded as a podcast - current GB Boccia captain Nigel Murray explains: "[these players] are allowed to have an assistant on court with them. The person who is their assistant has their back to the court so they are unable to see any of the play and they're totally directed in the movement of the ramp by the athlete."

He says that players who are "non verbal" communicate with their ramp assistant by moving their heads or blinking their eyes.

BC3 is one of four classes in the sport. Find out more about the rules, the classifications and the different types of Boccia events with this helpful guide from the GB Boccia Federation.

As with all Paralympic sport, you need to first be tested by the authorities to see how disabled you are before you can move forward and show how talented you are within a designated 'class', up against athletes of similar impairment. Presenters Liz Carr and Rob Crossan are particularly interested in how the doctors test the Paralympians, which you can hear if you click and listen to the interview. (a full transcript is available on the Ouch! blog).

Murray is the current world number one in his sport, the fifth most successful player of all time, a seven times British champion, twelve times national champion, and between individual and team events he's earned four gold medals - two at the World Championships and two at the Paralympics.

The forthcoming London 2012 Paralympics will be his fourth (and, he has said, his final) Games. Despite such an impressive record of achievements, you'd be forgiven for not being familiar with the name Nigel Murray, as Boccia doesn't have the profile of some of the other disability sports despite being widely played around the world.

Murray's team has been tipped for gold at London 2012 and you can see them in action at a 'test event' taking place in the Olympic Park this coming weekend.

• Ouch! features the Paralympics every month and demystifies some of the more unusual sports with the help of our Games correspondent Tony Garrett. The podcast includes interviews and discussion on non-sporty disability matters from our presenters, who are also disabled.

Test Event

The Boccia Test Event for the London 2012 Paralympics - officially called the London Boccia Invitational 2012 - takes place in the Basketball Arena at the Olympic Park between Saturday 5 and Monday 7 May. Tickets are unfortunately no longer available.

Related links

London 2012: Boccia
GB Boccia Federation
Paralympics GB: Boccia
Wikipedia: Boccia
GB Boccia: Nigel Murray profile

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