“The objective is clear: we are aiming for a medal! “ The voice of Sophie Ternel, sports director of boccia at the French Handisport Federation (FFH), betrays no doubt. And what if the French delegation participates for the first time in its history at the Paralympic Games, from August 24 to September 5.
If this mixed sport and without Olympic equivalent made its entry into the official competition program in 1984, in New York (United States), boccia is still unknown in France: “It’s a game of boules that we tend to relate to pétanque. The principle is the same: there is a jack [un cochonnet] and the goal of the game is, on each round, to gain more points than your opponent by getting as close as possible to the jack ”, explains the sports director.
“We are dealing with an audience that has a severe motor handicap, such as severe myopathy, quadriplegia, cerebral palsy, etc. “, details Sophie Ternel. Strategy is therefore in the foreground: where to place the jack? How to throw such a ball? How far? “A good player is someone who manages to have all these game intentions, to make all these tactical choices. “
In Tokyo, boccia comes in seven events: one individual per disability category (BC1, BC2, BC3 and BC4) and three by teams. Samir Vanderbeken competes in individual BC3, from August 28. He is also the captain of the French team aligned on the “doublet” event (two against two), the preliminary round of which begins on September 2. “I’m motivated like never before, says the 27-year-old. The Games are the most beautiful sporting event in the world, participating in them is the realization of four years of work. This is the apotheosis! ”
During the previous Paralympic Games, the French team had come close to qualifying for Rio. It is thanks to their title of European champions, obtained in Seville (Spain) in 2019, that Samir Vanderbeken, Sonia Heckel and Rodrigue Brenek finally won the “Grail” : their ticket to the Japanese capital.
Ramp system and assistant help
The BC3 category includes athletes with so-called impairments “Severe” to the four members. Unable to grip or release the ball consistently, they benefit from a ramp system and the help of a sports assistant.
The rule is strict: they must remain with their backs to the game during all rounds. Not allowed to turn around to watch the game, nor to advise the player, they are only there to carry out his instructions.
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