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By Georgia Grimond, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As the boccia competition drew to a close on Tuesday, August 12th, at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto, Brazil topped the leaderboard with six golds and three bronzes, ahead of hosts Canada who won only one gold, four silvers and a bronze. Colombia finished third with two silvers.

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Paralympic boccia can be played by athletes who have no use of their hands so the ball is pushed by a stick on their head, image recreation.

Brazil took gold in each individual category, with victories from José Chagas (BC1), Maciel de Souza Santos (BC2), Richardson Santos (BC3) and Elisiu dos Santos (BC4). They also picked up golds in the team BC1/2 and the pairs BC4 competitions, as well as three other bronzes.

The game of boccia is similar to boules or pétanque. It involves throwing six balls across a flat surface with the aim of getting them closest to the target ball, or jack. Paralympics boccia is played individually, in two or threes and is divided into four categories depending on competitors’ mobility. It was originally designed for sufferers of cerebral palsy but is now open to those who suffer from other disabilities that affect motor skills.

Competitors in the BC3 category have no mobility in their hands and arms and so use a ramp to direct and roll the ball. They position it using a stick between their teeth or one attached to their head. Players also rely on an assistant, who in Brazil is often a family member, to act as their hands.

Brazil’s four-time Paralympic boccia champion, Direcu Pinto, took home the gold in the pairs BC4. Having won the same competition in the last two Paralympic Games, Pinto has high hopes for Rio 2016 when he will compete in his home country.

The rest of Brazil’s paralympic athletes will be buoyed by the nation’s performance. At the mid-point of the games, Brazil was leading the medals table, ahead of America and the hosts Canada, with 68 golds, 48 silvers and 49 bronzes.

The Parapan Am Games continue until Saturday August 15th.

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