New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) scholarship athlete, Dan Michel, one of the world’s superstars of boccia, described his upcoming campaign in Portugal as the perfect hit out before next year’s Paris Paralympic Games.
Michel, who is a member of the Aussie team competing at the World Cup in Portugal, created Australian sporting history when he won the nation’s first Paralympic boccia medal – the bronze – at Tokyo. However, when the tournament kicks off in three days’ time, the 28-year-old from the beachside Sydney suburb of Cronulla, will compete as the world’s No.1 ranked BC3 individual male.
In a recent interview with broadcasters Mark Levy and Shane Flanagan on Nine’s Wide World of Sport radio program (2GB) Michel said he still had plenty of work to do before realising his dream of winning a prized Paralympic gold medal.
“It’s exciting,” he enthused when asked about the prospect of competing in what would be his third Paralympic Games. “It’s felt like a quick turnaround to a lot of us because we had the COVID delayed games in Tokyo . . . it’s only been a three-year cycle.
“At the moment [boccia is] similar to a lot of other sports [in that] we’re still qualifying, technically.
“So that’s really front and centre of the agenda, we’re travelling to competitions. We have two at the back end of this year – one in Portugal and one in Hong Kong. If we go well in Hong Kong at the end of the year that’ll be our qualification.
“We’re in a good enough position to get there regardless of results. It’s always better to get experience in competition and play against the best in the world and make sure we get on the court in Paris we’re in the best shape possible.”
Michel, who has defied the spinal muscular atrophy (type two) he was born with to compete on almost each of the world’s continents, and his well-used passport bears stamps from such nations as China, England, Hong Kong, South Korea, Poland, Dubai, Thailand, Canada, the USA, and Columbia.
And while he grew up loving rugby league and cricket, few have mastered the intricacies of boccia quite like him.
Michel has been assisted in competition for the last decade by Ashlee McClure, a sport loving Sydney sider who has said in interviews she’d always wanted to help a Paralympic athlete. McClure received her chance the day she answered the call when Michel’s mother looked for someone who could perform the crucial role as the on-court assistant for her son.
During a match McClure sits in front of Michel [with her back to the playing balls] and responds to his instructions by positioning the ramp and balls to his specific instructions. While players can either throw, kick or use a ramp device to send the balls down (depending on their disability) Michel said boccia demands an enormous amount of strategy and tactics.
“Boccia is a target ball sport,” he said. “It’s a similar objective to lawn bowls in that you have the target ball called the jack, and the aim of the game is to land your coloured balls as close as possible to the white jack.
“Players play six balls each, but it’s a little different to bowls in rather than alternating shots, the players who is furthest away from the target ball will play until they get closer. It’s quite dynamic, quite tactical, and for people who enjoy a strategic battle it’s a very interesting sport.”
Daniel Lane, NSWIS