Mini games boast paralympic spirit

DISABLED athletes in Ipswich were given a taste of what it would be like to compete at the Paralympics at Northgate Sports Centre recently.

Stuart Watson

DISABLED athletes in Ipswich were given a taste of what it would be like to compete at the Paralympics at Northgate Sports Centre recently.

Organised by the Orwell Panthers Disability Athletics Club, the 'Mini Games' were open to any youngster in school years five and six with any kind of disability.

As well as the traditional track and field athletics events, this year's competition included Boccia - a throwing event which features at the Paralympics - so that those with the likes of cerebral palsy could also take part.

Orwell Panthers A team won the overall trophy and their captain, Dan Baltadonis, was presented with the winning shield by prospective teenage Paralympian Zoe Robinson.

Robinson, who hails from Bury St Edmunds, will represent Great Britain as part of the four-strong Boccia squad in Beijing next month when the Paralympics start.

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Orwell Panthers coach Ann Negus said: “The whole idea of these Mini Games is that they are inclusive for anyone, no matter what their disability.

“All of the traditional track and field events are adapted so that anyone can take part. Those in wheelchairs can take part in the triple jump for example by measuring their distance covered after three pushes.

“Boccia is a very inclusive sport and that was why it was included this year. Those in wheelchairs can play and, even if their movement is restricted, they can still drop the ball and let it roll towards the target.

“Having Zoe (Robinson) there was great for the kids because it shows them what they could go on to achieve in sport.

“We would also like to thank Chassis Cab, John Grose, Vistrom, Ipswich Building Society and all the volunteers who helped on the day for their support.”

Boccia will be once again be included in the 'Mini Games' next year on July 18 at Northgate Sports Centre.

The Orwell Panthers will host the Sportshall Challenge on October 12, an event which is open to any person over 11 years with a disability, whether it be physical, visionary, learning or autism. Numbers will be limited, but anyone in school years five or six are welcome.

For more information please visit: www.orwellpanthers.co.uk, or call Ann Negus on: 01473 254050.

Boccia Factfile

- Is pronounced 'boch-chee-ah'.

- The aim of the game is to throw leather balls - coloured red or blue - as close as they can to a white target ball, or jack. At the end of each round, or end, the referee measures the distance of the balls closest to the jack and awards points accordingly.

- The balls can be moved with hands, feet, or, if the competitor's disability is severe, with an assistive device.

- Can be played by individuals, pairs or teams of three.

- Designed to be played by people with cerebral palsy and other locomotor disabilities affecting motor skills.

- Played in over 40 countries worldwide.

- Was first included in the Paralympics at the New York Games in 1984.

- The boccia events at the Paralympics take place at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics Gymnastics from 7-12 September.

- There are approximately 200 internationally ranked boccia players.

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