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31 Aug 2012

A sport going back a thousand years

The origin of boccia allegedly dates back to ancient Greece

On Sunday, September 2, with the first matches involving pairs and mixed teams, boccia will make its debut at the London 2012 Games. It is a sport with similar rules to bocce and requires great muscular control and extreme concentration by competing athletes. Boccia, introduced into the Paralympic program at the 1984 New York Games, is now practiced in over 50 countries worldwide. London 2012 will see a line-up of 104 athletes, men and women, competing individually, in pairs or in teams. Boccia players are athletes in a wheelchair with cerebral palsy or with a series of motor disabilities; a rating system ensures that athletes competing against one another have similar disabilities. The nation that achieved the best results in the last editions of the Paralympic Games and looking to be the favorite at the start of London 2012 as well is Portugal which, between Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, won 3 gold medals, 6 silver medals and 2 bronze medals; their leading player is Joao Paulo Fernandes, winner of two golds at Athens 2004 and one gold and one silver at Beijing 2008. The home crowds are expecting great things from Nigel Murray, considered by many as the best boccia player in the world.