Peebles boccia player Patrick Wilson is back from the World Championships in Spain wiht an impressive top five finish.
Fourth place in the event gives the 21-year-old an official ranking of sixth best BC3 player in the world.
But the jet-setting Borderer is not about to rest on his laurels, with a World Open in America looming this month and the European Championships in Portugal in October.
Patrick, who has cerebral palsy, has been playing boccia (pronounced ‘botcha’) since 2011 and has competed in two World Championships, numerous World Opens, European Championships and the Paralympics in Rio last year.
A member of East of Scotland Boccia Club and 2017 Live Borders Celebration of Sport Inspirational Performance winner, he takes his sport, which has similar rules to bowls, very seriously and is keen to stress that, although it is played mainly by “properly disabled” people, boccia is just as competitive as any other mainstream sport.
“I’m generalising, but boccia players are by far and away the most disabled athletes at a Paralympic Games,” he added. “Some of us, like me, can’t even hold a ball. We use ramps and have on court assistants (who must have their backs to the field of play at all times). So, it’s fair to say 99 per cent of people who play boccia to international level simply could not play any other sport.”
Despite this, Patrick assured us the rule book is thick enough and boccia is as nuanced as any other sport.
“The main thing that sets boccia apart from all other sports, even within the Paralympics, is the athletes,” he said. “I think when some people hear or see the severe nature of our impairments, they assume the sport is going to a bit timid, that we may just be happy finally to be playing sport properly.
“That’s why they are shocked when they see a top-level event and see just how tense it is. We really, really, really want to win. And that’s understatement.
“I have played in World opens, European Championships, World Championships and Paralympics and the atmosphere at these tournaments is unique. It goes from people shouting at the top of the lungs, just to let their opponent know how good that shot was, to deathly silence before the last ball of a tie-break.
“As an athlete, I love being in this tense, pressurised environment, it brings out the best in me.”
On September 30, Live Borders, in partnership with the Borders Disability Sports Group and Scottish Disability Sport, will host its third Open Boccia Championships at the Queen’s Centre in Galashiels and is looking for volunteers to go along and help out on the day. Contact Live Borders Disability Sports officer Alan Oliver at email@example.com about how to get involved in boccia or how to volunteer.