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Ulster Welcomes Boccia World's Elite

The first athletes have started to arrive in Northern Ireland for the CPISRA 2011 Boccia World Cup at the University of Ulster, with the hope of qualifying for the Paralympic Games next year.

Over 500 athletes, coaches and officials from 33 countries will descend on Ulster’s Jordanstown campus for the London 2012 qualifier, which takes place from 20-26 August.

Boccia is a target ball sport similar to bowls designed for people with high level of disability, which can be played as an individual, in pairs or as a three-a-side team.

The aim of the game is simple – to get your six balls closer to the white ‘jack’ ball than your opponents’. It is one of only three Paralympic sports that does not have an Olympic counterpart.

One of those elite athletes looking to use the tournament as a stepping-stone to the 2012 Paralympics is Zoe Robinson.

The Team GB player already has a Paralymppic gold medal to her name, as she picked up the honour at the 2008 Games in Beijing when she was just 18 years old.

“I am really looking forward to the World Cup and especially with it being hosted in Jordanstown. I have been training very hard for this competition and I am just hoping I do well,” said Zoe.

“We do not know the final selection for London until next year but I need to do well to be able to play in the individuals if picked for the team.

“I am hoping that we as a team will be in the top three. Spain and Portugal are our main rivals.

“The facilities at the University are very good and the staff very friendly and very helpful and I cannot wait until we arrive on Wednesday.”

Zoe arrived on campus today alongside competitors from Mexico, Australia, Japan and Singapore, with the majority of the countries taking part arriving on Thursday.

The competition, hosted in the Borough of Newtownabbey, has already received endorsements from high-profile sports stars such as Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush.

At Paralympic level the game is divided into four classifications. Classification exists in disability sport so that athletes compete against others with a similar level of functional ability. Players in the BC1, BC2 and BC4 classifications throw the ball onto court whereas the BC3 class use an assistive device called a ramp. All Boccia athletes have a disability that affects the strength and coordination in all four of their limbs and all competitors play their shots from their wheelchairs.

For further info on the 2011 Boccia World Cup, visit the official competition website at http://www.sportsulster.com/boccia2011.php

Spectator tickets for the event are free of charge and are available from Disability Sports NI: Telephone 028 9038 7062 or www.dsni.co.uk.