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Thrills and spills at Boccia tournament

News release

For immediate release
17 July 2006

Thrills and spills at Boccia tournament

More than 60 people with disabilities from all over New Zealand came to Auckland to take part in a tournament of Paralympic sport, Boccia, at the week-end.

The players were competing to win the Focus Cup, the prized award of the annual tournament organised by health and disability provider Focus 2000. The eventual overall winner of the coveted Best & Fairest trophy, after two days of intense competition, was Cindy Eichler from Tauranga.

Boccia - pronounced Botcha - is a cross between petanque and indoor bowls, and requires players to land their six balls closer to a target ball than their opponents'. The game dates back to ancient Greece and was successfully adapted for people with disabilities, and particularly those affecting motor skills, in the 20th century, eventually making its first appearance as a Paralympic sport in 1992.

Focus 2000's Stacey Mahoney says the game is one of the fastest growing international and Paralympic sports, with more than 50 countries organising local or international competitions.

"Boccia can be enjoyed by people of all ages and a wide variety of disabilities. It requires planning and strategy in trying to place balls for maximum scoring and helps develop a high degree of muscle control, accuracy, concentration and tactical awareness.

"Because it can be played by individuals, pairs or teams it is extremely versatile and the special classification system makes sure there's a level playing field so disabled athletes can compete against others with similar abilities."

The Focus Cup, now in its ninth year, is the largest Boccia tournament in New Zealand and continues to grow every year, attracting over 60 competitors this year compared to 46 in 2005. In addition to the players, more than 50 volunteers gave up their time over two days to referee, time-keep and support the event at the Alan Brewster Centre in Papatoetoe. Participants came from as far afield as Dunedin, Nelson, Christchurch and Whangerei.


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