Australia will field its largest boccia team in more than two decades at the Tokyo Paralympic Games with Daniel Michel, Spencer Cotie and Jamieson Leeson confirmed as members of the Australian Paralympic Team at a ceremony in Sydney on Monday.

“We don’t have much in the way of rich boccia history in Australia – we won a medal in Atlanta in ‘96,” said Michel, who competed in Rio in 2016 and is ranked No.4 in the world in the Individual BC3 classification.

“This is the first time in a long time that we’re going to have a team at a really competitive level.

“It’s exciting to be part of that. It’s a great opportunity to bring boccia to the forefront in Australia and get more talking about it, more people involved and to grow the sport.”

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Boccia is played exclusively by athletes with high levels of impairment. Competing in wheelchairs, athletes throw, kick or use a ramp device to propel leather balls as close as possible to the ‘jack’.

Michel won his first pool match at the Rio Games but lost his second and did not advance. He won the bronze medal in the Individual BC3 at the 2018 World Championships in England and teamed with Cotie to claim silver in the Mixed Pairs BC3.

“Spencer’s come along in leaps and bounds,” Michel said. “He started competing internationally back in 2016, 2017, and has really applied himself since then. All the momentum that’s come his way he really deserves. He’s put the hard yards in and I’m excited for him that he gets to compete in Tokyo.”

Of Leeson, who is in Year 12 at Dunedoo Central School in the NSW Central West, Michel said: “Jam’s come along very quickly. She came into the sport maybe about 18 months ago and is now a vital member of the team.

“I’ve really enjoyed being a part of her development and seeing her move forward.”

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Each country is allowed two players in the individual component in Tokyo, with Australia’s representatives to be determined. The pairs component consists of three players, with two on court and a substitute who can rotate in and out of each match.

Australia’s three representatives play the sport in close partnership with their respective ramp assistants, who were also announced today. Michel will team up with Ashlee McClure for their second Paralympics, Zoe Dix will partner with Cotie while Amanda Leeson will pair with her daughter.

“It’s quite different to Rio, where it was just myself going,” Michel said.

“It’s much more special to have a couple of players there to compete alongside. Especially in the pairs competition, I think we’ve got a really good chance to shake things up.

“It’s been my main objective over the last five years since Rio to be in a better position when Tokyo comes around, to be able to compete really well and get good results. To have it confirmed at last, it’s going to be great to be there and, with a couple of great teammates, it’ll be even more special.”

Paralympics Australia Chief Executive Lynne Anderson said: “Only 15 boccia players have competed for Australia at the Paralympics since the sport was introduced in 1984 and I’m so proud of Spencer and Jamieson for the hard work they’ve put in to join that list.

“With Dan leading the way, this is a Team of fine ambassadors for our country and for the sport. I hope all three will feel boosted by the strong support they’ll have back home when they compete at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo.”

Australian Team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin said: “This is our most accomplished boccia team since Sydney 2000 and it hasn’t come about by chance. It’s the result of sustained effort from Dan, Spencer and Jamieson, as well as head coach Ken Halliday, to build a group capable of mixing it with the world’s best.

“I’m thrilled to welcome them to the Australian Paralympic Team for Tokyo 2020.”

By: David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 21 June 2021