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What is boccia? Everything you need to know about the unique sport in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

The sport is one of two in the Paralympic Games that doesn't have an Olympic counterpart.
Credit: AP
Portugal's Jose Macedo plays a shot during the Mixed Pairs BC3 Boccia final against Greece at the 2012 Paralympics, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

TOKYO, Japan — The 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games are set to begin on Aug. 24!

This is the first year viewers will be able to watch the Paralympics on primetime, and many viewers will be introduced to sports they never knew existed.

One such sport is called Boccia, and it is one of two sports in the Paralympics that is completely unique to the Games and doesn't have an Olympic counterpart.

RELATED: How to watch the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

Here is everything you need to know about the sport ahead of this summer's games:

How do you play boccia?

Boccia, pronounced 'botcha,' is played on a flat, smooth surface, where competitors throw or roll colored leather balls as close as possible to a white target ball, called a “jack," according to the International Paralympic Committee's website.

The jack is thrown first. The single-player and pair matches have four rounds while team matches have six rounds. 

Each athlete, pair, and team throws six balls per round. The player, pair of players, or team with the ball closest to the jack receive one point and an additional point for every ball closer to the jack than the opponent's balls.

The athlete, pair, or team with the most points at the end of the rounds wins the match.

The sport was initially for Paralympians with cerebral palsy, but now includes athletes who have any type of neurological impairment that impacts motor function.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about goalball in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

Credit: AP
The Mixed Pairs BC3 Boccia final between Greece and Portugal takes place at the 2012 Paralympics, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

How did boccia start?

The sport has a long and diverse international history. It is considered an offshoot from the ancient Italian game of bocce and is similar to the French boules game, according to the National Paralympic Heritage Trust website.

"It is thought to have developed from a game in Greece in which large stones were thrown at a target," the website said. "Similar games were played in the Middle Ages and in Ancient Egypt."

The game made its Paralympic debut in the New York 1984 Summer Paralympics when 19 athletes from five different countries came to compete, including Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Portugal and the USA.

Since then, it has garnered a large international interest with a total of 71 countries being members of the Boccia International Sports Federation (BISFed).

Who are the top boccia athletes currently?

Competitors in the sport are split into four different classes, categorized as BC1 through BC4, according to the Boccia International Sports Federation's website.  The classes include:

  • BC1 - Players who throw the ball with their hand or foot that compete with an assistant to stabilize or adjust their playing chair.
  • BC2 - Players who throw the ball with their hand and are not eligible for assistance.
  • BC3 - Players who have no sustained grasp or release action who use an assistive device such as a ramp to throw the ball.
  • BC4 - Players with severe locomotor dysfunction but demonstrate sufficient dexterity to throw the ball.

See all of the top-ranked athletes from each class in individuals and pairs on this World Boccia Ranking chart here:

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