AUSTRALIAN Paralympian Daniel Michel and his ramp assistant Ashlee McClure took out the men’s BC3 individual Bronze Medal for boccia yesterday in Tokyo.
The pair defeated Great Britain’s Scott McCowan 6-1, achieving Australia’s second-ever boccia Paralympic medal – and the country’s first individual boccia win.
Mr Michel said he was excited to win the first boccia medal for Australia in 25 years.
“It’s a massive achievement,” he said.
“I’m happy I was able to pull it out.”
Athletes with severe physical impairment, competing in a wheelchair with an assistant, throw, kick or use a ramp device to propel leather balls along the court floor to get as close as possible to the jack, a white ball.
Mr Michel, born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, an inherited neurological muscular condition, has played boccia for ten years.
SMA is a physical condition only, affecting the motor neurones in the spinal cord that control the body’s muscle movement, including head control, arm and leg movement, and the actions of breathing, coughing and swallowing.
The BC3 classification is for players who have the most significant limitations.
Boccia tests each competitor’s degree of muscle control and accuracy; in addition, it also requires technical skill and tactical intelligence
The sport was introduced to the Paralympics in 1984.
Mr Michel said finding out about boccia was an eye-opener.
“I had never been able to take part in sport due to my severe physical impairment,” he said.
“Despite my disability, I have always had a keen passion and love for sport, and boccia provided me with an outlet to express that.”
The importance of boccia as a Paralympic sport can’t be exaggerated, Mr Michel said.
“It demonstrates the abilities the most physically impaired members of our community have to be successful through sport.”
Australian head coach Ken Halliday said Dan is always thinking about the game.
“He’s a very intelligent guy and uses that to work through the game and tactics and strategies,” Mr Halliday said.
“It’s paid off for him.”
SMA Australia’s CEO, Julie Cini, describes Daniel as a phenomenal sports person.
“Many people with SMA have above average intelligence, and even though he has a disability, Dan’s thinking game is remarkable,” Ms Cini said.
“He excels at the battleground tactics the game requires.
“His physical disability means he pushes the ball with a stick in his mouth down a ramp.
“The biggest message is it doesn’t matter what your disability; you are valued in society, and we want to see what you have to offer.”