Para Boccia: a wheelchair sport «for almost everyone»
This month, Boris Nicolai would have traveled to his first Paralympic Games in Tokyo. We had a video call with the German national player. In the interview, he told us about his fascination for these leather balls and why Para Boccia is a wheelchair sport for «for almost everyone».
Interview with Boris
Boris, you have already made it to the top at European and World Championships. This month you would have played at your first Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Now they are postponed because of COVID-19. What does that mean for you?
Postponed is not canceled. I’ve been training a lot this year. Now I’m hoping to play at the Paralympic Games in August 2021.
How often do you train currently and how do you organize yourself with work?
I actually work full-time. To prepare for the Paralympic Games I had reduced my schedule. Currently, I train about ten hours a week. This includes playing on the boccia field, strength training, and physiotherapy.
You’ve been playing para boccia for six years. How did it come?
I have always been athletic and despite my muscular dystrophy, I was able to play tennis for a long time. Then six years ago I flew to Tenerife for the holidays. In the Hotel Mar y Sol – which by the way is great for wheelchair users – I was able to try out different sports. That’s how it happened that para boccia coaches thought that I had talent and I suddenly competed in national and soon international tournaments.
How does such a tournament actually work?
Like boccia ( grins ): It’s all about placing your balls as close to the target ball as possible. Every ball that is closer to the target ball than the opponent’s ball scores. You play in four sets of six balls each. After that, a winner is determined or a tie break is played.
About Boris Nicolai
Boris Nicolai is 35 years old and suffers muscle dystrophy. He started playing Para Boccia six years ago at BRS Gersweiler-Ottenhausen e.V. Today the Saarlander is one of the best players worldwide and has qualified himself for the Paralympic Games 2020. He is not (yet) a BRO driver, but was «totally impressed» after his test drive, as he said.
And what exactly is different about para boccia?
Unlike the usual boccia, we play with leather balls on hall floors. Further, you can play single, pair or team. Depending on the handicap you play in a different category.
You compete in category BC4, in which people with severe physical disabilities without cerebral origin and without the help of an assistant play. Are there other categories?
Yes, besides there are two categories for people with cerebral palsy, whose coordination is severely impaired. It is allowed to throw or play with the foot In these categories. In category BC1, however, athletes need the help of an assistant who can adjust the position of the wheelchair or indicate the ball. In category, BC2 play those who do not need an assistant.
There is also category BC3, where the athletes are not able to throw a boccia ball with sufficient strength and coordination. They are also allowed to bring an assistant and play with a ramp.
So, para boccia is for anyone with limited mobility?
Sure! But for official games, you have to meet certain requirements. Paraplegics, for example, are only allowed from C5.
Where and how can I start playing?
Anywhere – that’s what’s so cool about it! You only need to buy leather balls and can start playing right away. I often play between the hall and the kitchen. Unfortunately, the sport is still very unknown in Switzerland. But you could contact the Swiss Paraplegics Association.
In Germany, there are many boccia clubs. There you usually have the possibility to play half boccia – i.e. with people without disabilities. The best way to find out is to research in social media, where you can find groups, players, and trainers using #paraboccia.