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Gunning for Gold in Paris: Paralympic Boccia Player Daniel Michel

The Loop is very proud that two of our community members will be heading to Paris to compete in the Paralympics! In this blog we’re getting to know our team member Daniel Michel, who is on the boccia paralympic team representing Australia.

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The Loop is very proud that two of our community members will be heading to Paris to compete in the Paralympics! In this blog we’re getting to know our team member Daniel Michel, who is on the boccia paralympic team representing Australia.

What is Boccia?

Boccia is a Paralympic sport similar to bowls and baton, and has been a paralympic sport since 1984. The objective is to land the coloured balls as close to the black ball called the ‘jack’ as possible. Typically played by people with more physical disability, the sport was made specifically for people with disability to play recreationally, until being made into a paralympic sport.

Players can compete as singles but also as teams or pairs, as Daniel does with Jamieson Leeson in the BC3 classification. In this classification athletes use a ramp instead of throwing or rolling the ball with their hands. Ramp assistants help to move the ramp as instructed by the athletes, with assistants having their back to the court at all times so that they can’t influence .

Daniel’s Story

Daniel is from Cornella in Sydney Southern Shire and has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) type 2. Daniel has been a lover of the sport since age 15, where he discovered it at a recreational camp held by Muscular Dystrophy New South Wales. He was instantly drawn to it, saying “it was a sport that I could do which was massive for me because I’ve always been a sport lover, but never been able to actually play one.”

Knowing that he had found not only a sport he could enjoy, but could turn into a career, Daniel undertook many steps to join the Paralympic team. Over the years since he began, he trained extensively, going for six-eight hours, five-six days a week in the early days of his career.

From 2013 onwards, he met his goal of representing the Australian team at competitions around the world. He says “if you’d asked me at 15 whether I’d be playing a sport internationally, competing four to five times a year, I would’ve said ‘you’re dreaming’”.

Daniel loves the tactical aspect of the sport, because he relishes the challenge. He also likes that it helps challenge society norms and allow able bodied people to see people with disabilities performing in world sports events.

Standout career highlights include being the first Australian to compete in Rio since Sydney 2000 and winning his first internal event in 2017, after going to eight consecutive finals prior. Since interviewing Dan before the Tokyo Olympics, he has also gone on to achieve amazing things including:

  • Bronze at theTokyo Olympics (2021)

  • Gold in BC3 pairs at the 2022 BISFed World Cup (2022)

  • Gold in BC3 pairs at the Montreal Boccia World Cup (2023)

  • AIS Sports Performance Awards - Sports Team of the year (2023)

  • Silver at the Asia and Oceania Boccia Championships (2023)

  • Silver at the World Boccia Championships this (2024)

When posed with the question of whether more skill is involved in boccia compared to the raw ability of athletes, he says that because boccia is very different to most sports because it doesn’t have a big physical component, it’s a test of mental fortitude, strategy, skill attribution, preparation and quick decision making. These are vital components since players cannot rely on physique and tools.

A barrier he’s faced in reaching the Paralympics and travelling internationally with having SMA has been how to safely and effectively travel with his wheelchair and other equipment. It can never be guaranteed that equipment will be well looked after. However, Danial says that although having a disability comes with its challenges, he wouldn’t change it for the world.

Daniel says that as a disabled person, playing a sport has made him feel more confident and made him a happier person. He recommends all people with disability to pick up a sport at least once in their life.

How To Get Involved

If you would like to get involved in boccia, you can go to your local state website and get in touch with someone involved in the sport, who can give you recommendations on how to get involved yourself.

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