Jon and I travelled to Haverhill in Suffolk for our Boccia with Dan Bentley of Bentley’s Boccia . Dan is a Boccia gold medallist from Beijing 2008 and was just back from the European Championships where he took individual gold. In short he is one of the best Boccia players in the world – and one of the great characters we’ve met as we’ve travelled around the UK doing our sports.
First, a brief description for those who aren’t familiar with the sport of Boccia. It’s a bit like bowls – but is played with soft(ish) leather balls and is played indoors. In the individual version of the sport, there are 2 players and they play 4 ends. Each player takes it in turn to throw the jack onto the court. The same player will then throw the first of their (six) balls as close to the jack as possible – preferably in a position that blocks their opponent from getting close to the jack. The second player will then keep throwing their balls until they have the ball that closest to the jack. At which stage, the first player will throw until they, in turn, have the closest ball. This will continue until both players have thrown all six of their balls. (If you ever play Dan you may find that you have thrown all six of your balls before he has to go again…)
Points are scored by counting the number of balls the winning player has closest to the jack. For example, if the winner has have the 3 closest balls then they will score 3 points. The points are totalled over the 4 ends and the winner declared. If the scores are tied after 4 ends then there is a one end shoot out.
Boccia is one of those sports that you can start playing and enjoying almost immediately – but which takes many years to master. For example, Dan trains for about 8 hours a week – on top of which he attends GB training camps and swims and goes to the gym to build his strength. It will always remain a great source of pride to me that I actually managed to score a point or two against him!
Huge thanks to Dan and Mireille, his PA, for all their help.