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【Boccia】Nationwide Boccia Tournament of Special Schools 18 Teams Took Part in the Tourney

The “Boccia Koshien” was held on August 2 at BumB Tokyo Sports Cultural Center, where boccia teams from special needs education schools for the physically challenged gathered to decide who among them was the No.1 team in the official Paralympic sport. On the day of the tournament, there was exciting competition between the 18 participating teams from 22 special needs education schools (joint teams from several different schools included) in Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Fukushima, Aichi, Osaka, Nara, Oita and Kumamoto prefectures. The preliminary and championship rounds were played between teams of three players each. The games turned out to be highly competitive, and Shunji Kawai, GM of the Paralympics Japan national team (and Japan Boccia Association Athletic Director) commented, “It was unexpected but in a good way.”

Paulownia, the Team from the Special Needs Education School for the Physically Challenged, University of Tsukuba, Won the Tournament

Boccia is a game that students may experience in physical education class at many special needs education schools. However, it is not played as a competitive sport. Because of this, the tournament was expected to be relaxed and recreational. However, that expectation was happily proved wrong.

The teams that advanced to the final stage of this historic tournament for the Japanese boccia circle, and as a competitive sport for special needs education schools for the physically challenged, were as follows: Johoku Control Power III (Tokyo Metropolitan Johoku Special Needs Education School) and Paulownia (Special Needs Education School for the Physically Challenged, University of Tsukuba).

A spectacular throw by Sota Makami clenched the title

Paulownia took the lead in the final game by scoring 1 point in the first end, and propelling their ball closer to the target “jack” ball in the second end before their opponent. However, the game was not so easily decided. The third delivery by Alain Avilla Takahashi (12th grader) of Johoku Control Power III stopped closer to the jack, turning the tide. If Johoku managed to score a point, it would go into a tie-break end. Meanwhile, the game would be reversed and won by Johoku if they could get their remaining ball into scoring position.

It was Paulownia’s last throw by Sota Makami (11th grader) that decided the game. The relaxed throw got the boccia ball not only closest to the jack but also dead on in the way of the two balls left to be propelled by Johoku’s Yuta Kubo (11th grader). It was a spectacular throw that not only snatched a point for his own team but also served to block the opponent’s balls.
Paulownia defeated Johoku Control Power III 2-0, winning the Boccia Koshien title. The comments from the team members, who were all 11th graders, were as follows. Kyohei Kaneko said, “I was really nervous from the preliminary round whether we’d be able to make it into the final round. I made some mistakes but my team members helped me out.
It’s a win that we achieved by working together.” Ryota Matsumoto said, “Each game we played in the preliminary round had me on pins and needles. I’ve never felt so nervous for so long a time. I think it was a win that the whole team accomplished.” Naoki Omura said, “I’ve never won in a sports tournament like this, so I’m very happy. I was really nervous at first, but things got better after I relaxed. I was able to do my best.” And finally, Sota Makami said, “I’m really very happy.

It was pretty tense toward the close of the second end. We didn’t know whether it would go into a tie-break end or whether we’d win. I’m glad that we managed to win with the last throw. It was a good one.” All four team members played their respective roles, and it was a crown that was grabbed thanks to the good teamwork made possible by all members being in the same grade.

The other schools that placed were as follows. Johoku Control Power III, which lost to Paulownia, came in second place. Machida no Oka SAIKYO won the game for third place, while Senpu Kid’s came in fourth. Fukushima Prefectural Koriyama Special Needs School’s Koriyama All Stars won the game for fifth place. And, sixth place went to Aichi Prefecture Seto Municipal Special Needs Education School (Koryo schoolhouse).

The title was won by Paulownia, which showed great teamwork

The players competed with serious looks on their faces

A Historic Tournament for Both Para-Sports and Special Needs Education Schools

On August 2nd, the day that this tournament was held, an inauguration ceremony was being held elsewhere in Tokyo for the athletes representing Japan in the Rio Paralympic Games.

Shunji Kawai, General Manager of “Team Japan,” said, “We participated in this tournament with the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and beyond in mind.” Japan Boccia Association President Kuniharu Okuda said, with passion, “Students of the special needs education schools have almost no opportunity to play boccia according to official rules. That’s why they and their guardians think that they wouldn’t be able to play boccia. I wanted them to change that perception. I also wanted them to know the joy of winning and to know that they might have a chance to go play in the Paralympics someday. Everyone can give it a try if they have a goal.”

Meanwhile, Hirofumi Miura, who serves as the Chair of the Executive Committee for the Nationwide Boccia Tournament of Special Needs Education Schools for the Physically Challenged, said, “This was the first experience for the students to take part under such a well-prepared tournament environment. There was significance to their participation in the Paralympic sport competition. Before this, the Paralympics were something completely unrelated to their lives that did not concern them at all. However, after trying a para-sport and seeing how connected they actually are to the Paralympics, para-sports and the Paralympics become something that is very accessible to them. They start to develop an interest and a desire to try it. This tournament will become a huge trigger in that sense.

There have been almost no precedents in which a para-sports association and special needs education schools for the physically challenged have collaborated in hosting a tournament. What is more, holding a tournament across regional jurisdictions, with the participation of special needs education schools for the physically challenged run by different prefectures, or having students from such schools across Japan come together are quite unusual. In that sense, the Boccia Koshien was a historic tournament for both para-sports and special needs education schools.

It was the first time for almost all the players to play boccia according to official rules

All players devised strategies on their own and cooperated with each other in the games

text&photos by BOCCIA FAN
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