April 11, 2014

Wheelchair Games in North Myrtle Beach this weekend add new sport – boccia

There will be a new game in town at this weekend’s 20th annual Southeastern Wheelchair Sports Association Games in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.

There will be a new game in town at this weekend’s 20th annual Southeastern Wheelchair Sports Association Games in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.

Boccia, an indoor cousin of bocce, the popular Italian backyard lawn-bowling game, will debut at this year’s games with an introductory clinic for class A, B and C quadriplegics from 2 until 4 p.m. Friday and an exhibition from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday at the gym at the North Myrtle Beach Fitness & Aquatic Center.

The addition of boccia fills the need for an event for those whose disabilities prevent them from competing in traditional field events such as discus, shot put and javelin.

Bocce balls are made of hard plastic or metal. Boccia balls are leather. The rules are similar – players try to roll balls closer than their opponents to a target ball.

“We’re all excited about the boccia,” said NMB Fitness & Aquatic director Melinda Chappell, a longtime Wheelchair Games organizer and supporter.

“It’s an exciting game that everybody can play.”

Swimming and weightlifting events will be held Friday at the center.

Air rifle and field (track) events will be held Saturday at J. Bryan Floyd Community Center with an awards banquet to follow at Wild Wing Café. On Sunday, the games will wrap up with track events and archery at Doug Shaw Stadium.

“This sporting event is a prime example of how people with or without disabilities can participate in sports,” said North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley. “I encourage people of the community to come out and watch this exciting sporting event.”

Admission for spectators is free, but following the competition isn’t always easy. Though contestants often participate at the same time in events, each competes against a standard for his level of disability. Thus, a participant facing a greater physical challenge can outscore someone who finishes with a better raw time or distance.

Brock Johnson of North Myrtle Beach, a 36-year-old Arkansas native drawn to the Grand Strand by his passion for surfing, had a successful debut at last year’s Wheelchair Games. Johnson swept the field events – shot put, discus and javelin – and added another victory and a second-place finish in swimming events.

A diving injury two years ago left the former lifeguard a quadriplegic. During therapy after the accident, Johnson got back in the water. On May 17, he’s organizing a “Wheel to Surf” surfing event in North Myrtle Beach for the second year.

“It’s fun to be able to compete,” said Johnson. “This is an event where you can enjoy the competition and develop friendships. It’s not too intense between the participants because everybody is really competing against themselves.”

Steve Presti of Sunset Beach, N.C., is the other local participant signed up.

For the first time, sportsmanship awards will be presented for all sports, said Chappell.

For information on the SEWSA Games, contact Chappell at mechappell@nmb.us or 280-5632. For information on boccia pre-registration – required for the clinic – contact Jeff Jones at jjones@blazesports.org or 678-637-7447.

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