The pathway to Paralympic Games selection for Australian boccia players is becoming clearer, thanks to the Australian Paralympic Committee’s (APC) revamped national development program.
The programme reached another major milestone recently, with the APC and Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association (Queensland) signing an agreement to create more opportunities for athletes in the sunshine state to participate in the sport.
With the APC providing funding and operational support, Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association will help drive the delivery of greater coaching and competition opportunities for boccia players at both ends of the development pathway.
This most recent milestone follows the signing of similar service agreements in both New South Wales and South Australia, further reinforcing the APC’s support towards developing a national boccia program that not only encourages more athletes to play the sport to the level of their choice, but increases Australia’s elite talent pool for future Paralympic Games.
APC Chief Executive Jason Hellwig said the agreement with Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association is an important move for boccia in Australia.
“Opportunities for people with more severe disabilities to participate in sport are too limited and the APC is well aware that this must change,” Hellwig said.
“We are looking forward to joining forces with Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association to develop boccia in Queensland, and we’re working hard to secure agreements with disability organisations in the other states and territories to increase their capacity to deliver boccia programs to the standard that we expect.
“There is still a lot of hard work ahead of us and our program partners before Australia can be a competitive force in boccia at the Paralympic Games, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association Chief Executive Ray Epstein believes the impact of this new agreement will be significant.
“From our perspective, we’re enthusiastic about promoting boccia and we see this as a vital opportunity to create more awareness of the sport, and more competition for players,” Epstein said.
“Our Association has worked very well on projects with the APC over a long period of time, and we’re looking forward to achieving more good results for this program.”
Paul van Oosten, the APC’s Boccia Program Coordinator, will work closely with Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association to implement the program.
“This partnership is all about developing a sustainable grass roots platform on which we can grow the sport of boccia in Queensland.” van Oosten said.
“Success will largely depend on how effectively schools, service providers and disability organisations are engaged in the program, which in turn will be the catalyst for the identification of more athletes in rural, regional and metropolitan areas.
“We believe Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association is ready to help us take on this challenge, and we will provide as much support as we can to ensure every athlete is given the best chance to play boccia and take their game to the next level.”