Born out of the original Stoke Mandeville Games and held every year in Leicester, the National Indoor Games enables people who have had Polio and now live with Post Polio Syndrome (PPS) to still compete in a range of sports and games, no matter what their disability. Those who qualify from regional heats, join over 200 competitors from across the United Kingdom to compete for individual and team success. The Northern Ireland Polio Fellowship has sent a full squad to the games since 2015 and just get better every year.
“Boccia is a precision ball sport and one of the most hotly contested events at the games, so it is a famous double for one region to score gold in both classes,” said National Chairman of The British Polio Fellowship David Mitchell. “The Irish team are now firmly established as dark horses for the 2019 games, when the charity will be celebrating our 80th anniversary. The Irish only just missed silver this year and with performers like Alan and Joe, I’m not sure you will find people betting against them next year.”
Originally designed to be played by people with cerebral palsy, Boccia was introduced into the Paralympics at the 1984 games in New York. It’s a mixed gender game, and Alan had to be at his best to survive the challenge of Scotland’s Anna Tizzard, who finished second; as did Joe, who held off the North West Region’s Lin Morton in another close fought contest. With a team bronze for Northern Ireland in 2017, there were hints of what was to come this year. Alan secured gold in Boccia Class 2 last year, with Joe having to settle for silver in Class 1. Gold for both in 2018 pushed the team tantalisingly close to silver place and with squad individual performances improving, other teams will be looking over their shoulders in 2019.
“Boccia is a target sport requiring tactics and skill, so the tension is nail-biting,” added David. “This year’s Boccia had the audience enthralled and it is one of the more popular sports at the games. “Joe and Alan are to be congratulated and while they have improved every year, our female competitors are now emerging as a force to be reckoned with in all the sports and this is likely to have a big impact in 2019.”
To find out more about The Northern Ireland Polio Fellowship, visit www.polio-ni.org/