Boccia has taken centre stage at the Paralympics 2021.
A host of medal matches during daytime UK hours - coupled with the success of David Smith - means all eyes are on when the sport will be played again in Tokyo.
Smith and his Great Britain teammates will be in pairs and team action over the coming days of the 2020 Paralympic Games before the closing ceremony on 5 September.
Here’s all you need to know about what boccia is, its rules and classifications, how Great Britain have got on so far and when they will be bidding for medals again at the Paralympics.
What is boccia?
Boccia is a precision ball sport similar to bowls and petanque.
The idea of the game is to get your ball, or balls, closer to the target than your opponent.
One side has six red balls and the other side has six blue balls, while the target - known as a jack - is coloured white.
The game begins with the one side throwing the jack into play and following it up by trying to get their first ball as close to it as possible.
The other side then has a turn to throw their ball closer to the jack and whichever side is furthest away from the jack throws the next ball.
Points are awarded once all balls have been played.
The side that is closest to the jack receives a point for every ball they have nearer than their opponent’s closest ball.
What are the rules of boccia?
There are a set number of ends in a match of boccia - four in individual and pairs events and six in the team game.
After all ends have been played the scores are added up and the side with the highest total is named as the winner of the contest.
Boccia can be played either indoors or outdoors on a court similar in size to that used in badminton.
Players are positioned at one end in throwing boxes and can throw the jack anywhere on court over the ‘V’ line.
Balls are made of leather and are filled with plastic granules so they do not bounce and are easy to grip.
What are the boccia classifications?
Boccia is played by athletes with a high level of impairment resulting from Cerebral Palsy or other conditions affecting motor skills.
All athletes have an impairment that affects all four of their limbs. The majority of players use an electric wheelchair for mobility.
The sport is a test of muscle control and accuracy, demanding extreme skill and concentration at the highest level.
There are four boccia classifications:
- BC1 - for players who have Cerebral Palsy. Athletes will have difficulty gripping the ball. As a result they are permitted to have an assistant on court to pass them the ball before they throw. BC1 athletes are allowed to use their hands or feet to play the ball. Most athletes throw the ball but a small number kick the ball into play.
- BC2 - also for players who have Cerebral Palsy. BC2 players are more able than BC1 players to grip and release the ball. As a result they are not permitted an assistant on court and must throw the ball onto court.
- BC3 - for players with either Cerebral Palsy or other conditions and was added to the Games in 1996. BC3 players have the highest level of impairment. They are unable to throw or kick the ball consistently into play and therefore play using an assistive device, also known as a ramp. The athlete has an assistant on court that faces away from play and is not allowed to turn around for the duration of the end. The assistant positions the ramp under instruction from the player and places the ball on the ramp for the player to release.
- BC4 - for players who do not have Cerebral Palsy and was first included in the Paralympic Games in 2004. BC4 players have similar functional ability to BC2 players so have difficulty gripping and releasing the ball but can throw it consistently into play.
How have Paralympics GB performed in boccia at Tokyo 2020?
David Smith retained his individual BC1 title in a gold medal match at the Paralympics 2021.
Smith, who uses a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, won the match 4-2 in Tokyo against Chew Wei Lun of Malaysia for GB’s only gold on Day 8 of the Paralympic Games.
The eccentric 32-year-old became the Paralympic-specific game’s most successful British player after grabbing the fifth medal – and third gold – of his Games career.
Smith surpassed his idol Nigel Murray as GB’s most-successful player.
Elsewhere, Scott McCowan missed out on a place on the podium after he lost an individual BC3 bronze medal match to Australian Daniel Michel.
When are GB competing next in boccia at the Paralympics?
Team and pairs group stage boccia events take centre stage on Thursday 2 September and Friday 3 September before the knockout rounds on Saturday 4 September.