In this podcast, Younghee and I discuss Boccia – a famous sport in the paralympics. I wanted to be a national Boccia team member but I was told I am ineligible. In the podcast we chat about Boccia’s history, rules, and more.
Younghee: A chattering podcast saying hello to ordinary stories of daily life.
Younghee and Sangjun: Hello, Let’s Chatter!
Young-hee: Hey guys! I’m Young-hee Park.
Sangjun: I’m SangJun Lee. And we are here for “Hello, Let’s Chatter!”
The music fades away.
Young-hee: Today, we’ll talk about “boccia,” SangJun’s favorte sport.
Acutally, I got to know about boccia thanks to SangJun.
As for those who are listening to this podcast, some of you may not know boccia yet.
Now, we’ll start chattering about boccia with SangJun.
SangJun, when did the sport boccia begin to be played?
And when was it introduced in Korea?
Sangun: It is a ball sport dating from the time of ancient Greece.
Younghee: So it has a long history.
It started in ancient Greece.
Younghee: When was it introduced in Korea?
Sangjun: In Korea, it began to be played in 1987 during the seventh National Athletics Competition for Persons with Disabilities.
Younghee: Did you say 1987?
Younghee: Adding more details, the occasion led the sport to be known during the 1988 Paralympics.
Boccia means “wooden ball” or “bowling” in Italian.
I’m curious. So we’ll talk about the rules of boccia.
How many players are needed for boccia?
Sangjun: Six players for team matches and two players for individual matches.
YoungheeL You mean six people for each team? Or three people?
Sangjun: Three people for each team.
Younghee: I got it. Each team has three players and two teams have six players in total.
Younghee: Boccia is a ball sport.
And the colors of the balls are different.
Could you tell me more about the balls of boccia?
How many balls there are and what colors they have, things like that.
Sangjun: A set has 13 balls.
Sangjun: Yes, there are 13 balls. There is a white jack ball.
And there are six red balls and six blue balls.
Younghee: Ah, that is why there are 13 balls.
A set of boccia consists of a white jack ball, six red balls and six blue balls. So you play with 13 balls.
Younghee: Do team and individual matches use the same number of balls?
Do those participating in individual matches also throw six balls?
Sangjun: Yes, six balls. But in a team match, a person throws two balls.
Younghee: I see, two balls for everyone.
So a player of an individual match throws six balls.
Then do you mean that a team also throws six balls in total?
Sangjun: In an individual match, everyone is given six red or blue balls.
Younghee: Everyone is given the same number.
Younghee: And the different colors mean different teams, right?
Sangjun: That’s right.
Younghee: I see. Actually, many people may not feel familiar with boccia.
And I don’t know much about it either.
To what sport for persons without disabilities could we compare boccia?
Sangjun: A sport for persons without disabilities… Curling! It is similar to curling.
Younghee: I see. It seems that the balls must hit the jack.
So it is similar to curling.
Now, I understand a little bit.
Then could you explain the rules a little bit more?
The jack is there and each team throws a ball.
How can you win?
Sangjun: To win, your team’s ball must be closest to the jack.
Younghee: Ah, if your team’s ball is closest to the white jack, you get more points, right?
Sangjun: That’s right.
Younghee: Listening to your explanation of the rules, it is similar to curling and bowling.
Don’t you agree, SangJun?
Sangjun: Yes, it is similar to both sports.
Younghee: To chatter with SangJun today, I did some research.
And I found out that boccia is one of the most representative sports for persons with disabilities.
I heard that it is only open to persons with cerebral palsy.
Is it correct?
I mean, is boccia only for persons with cerebral palsy?
Or, can persons with other disabilities also play the sport?
Sangjun: It is particularly for persons with cerebral palsy.
I have a physical disability so I can’t be a national athlete.
Younghee: So to summarize, only persons with cerebral palsy can become national athletes or professional boccia players.
Persons with different disabilities cannot join the national team. But they can play it in the framework of sports for all and they can also be amateur players.
This is also something new I learned.
Then as for the coaches or trainers who train boccia players, are they persons with disabilities or not?
Sangjun: They are persons without disabilities.
Younghee: Most of them… I see.
Younghee: It would mean that not many boccia players with disabilities have become trainers.
I’ll look for such cases.
Sangjun: Right. There are not many.
Younghee: Ah, there are not many.
Younghee: It is a sport specially designed for persons with disabilities so I hope it has many trainers with disabilities.
Sangjun: Right. I hope so too.
Younghee: One of the artists participating in the Hello Project also has a license for a boccia trainer.
You could also dream of it.
So I have a question. How many years have you played boccia?
Sangjun: 15 years.
Younghee: Wow, you would be a pro!
15 years is a quite a long period.
Have you played boccia in Chuncheon?
Sangjun: No, in Seoul.
Younghee: So you were born in Seoul and moved to Chuncheon, right?
Sangjun: Yes, I lived in Seoul and I moved to Chuncheon two and a half years ago.
Younghee: So you have lived in Chuncheon for two and a half years.
Before that, you lived in Seoul.
Younghee: With a career of 15 years, you would not be very different from a professional player.
These days, it would be difficult for you to play because of the pandemic but before it, how many times a week did you practice boccia?
Sangjun: Before the pandemic, I played quite often, like five times.
Younghee: A week?
Younghee: Wow, how many hours a day?
Sangjun: In the past, I played 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Younghee: That schedule is that of national athletes.
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. That’s so great!
Sangjun: Yes, I need to keep practicing it to play it well.
Younghee: You love boccia so much!
I didn’t know that.
I just thought that it would be your hobby.
It is hard to do something 6 to 8 hours a day for a hobby.
But that is what you have been doing. This is something new I learned about you today.
These days, it would be difficult for you to play it because of the pandemic.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, have you played it? Or not?
Sangjun: No, I have never played.
Younghee: So you can’t go to the gym, right?
Sangjun: Right. They say they will reopen in March but I don’t know.
Younghee: They may reopen in March.
Younghee: If the situation improves.
Sangjun: Yes, if the situation improves, they will reopen.
Younghee: I hope the pandemic ends as soon as possible so all boccia lovers including you could enjoy the sport again at gyms.
You said that you were living in Seoul when you first started boccia, right?
Younghee: And now, you live in Chuncheon.
Younghee: Where did you live in Seoul?
In Seoul, how many boccia gyms are there? Are there a lot?
Sangjun: Yes, there are a lot in Seoul.
Younghee: Is that so?
Sangjun: Yes, each district in Seoul has a gym.
Younghee: Each district?
Younghee: That’s great. Then what about Chuncheon?
Sangjun: There is only one gym in Chuncheon.
Younghee: You mean there is only one gym in the entire city of Chuncheon?
Younghee: It is true that Seoul is the capital of South Korea but the gap between Seoul and other cities is so big, even in boccia.
Sangjun: That’s right.
Younghee: It’s quite regrettable. When I had an interview with you before this podcast, you said that there are many clubs of boccia, didn’t you?
Sangjun: Yes, there are many bocica clubs in Seoul.
Younghee: Does each district in Seoul has a club?
Sangjun: Yes, each district.
Younghee: Then what about Chuncheon?
Sangjun: Chuncheon doesn’t have many.
Younghee: The city doesn’t have many clubs.
Younghee: I see. Mr. Mayor of Chuncheon, please take note of this if you are listening to his podcast.
Currently, Chuncheon has only one boccia gym and it doesn’t have many boccia clubs.
I already know three people who love boccia, including you, SangJun.
Mr. Mayor, please give us active support so my friends could enjoy boccia with more ease!
Sangjun: Please give us active support!
Younghee: Then are you a member of a boccia club?
Sangjun: Yes, the sports club of the city.
Younghee: The sports club of Chuncheon City?
Younghee: I see.
Sangjun: I’m a member of the club.
Younghee: You said that they are many boccia competitions.
Younghee: In Korea, big cities have many boccia players and each district has a gym. It means that many people play the sport in the framework of sports for all.
So there would be many competitions. Is it true?
Are there many competitions for those playing it as part of sports for all or for amateur players?
Sangjun: There are not many in Chuncheon but many in Seoul.
Younghee: If there are many, how many competitions are there a year?
Sangjun: About 20 times (a year) in Seoul. But there are only three competitions a year in Chuncheon.
Younghee: So in Seoul, there are about 20 competitions a year.
It means that there are on average two competitions every month.
But Chuncheon has three competitions a year, right?
Younghee: Then have you participated in boccia competitions as an amateur player?
Sangjun: Quite often.
Younghee: Is that so? How many times?
Sangjun: Many times in Seoul. And I won many of them. I got about 20 certificates of award.
Younghee: 20 certificates? If you won two certificates in a competition for example, it means you participated in at least ten competitions.
Sangjun: That’s right.
Younghee: You are really a pro.
You are just like professional players.
This is something new I got to know about you.
Then to prepare for a competition, do you usually train 7 to 8 hours a day like you said before?
Sangjun: Yes, I train 7 to 8 hours a day.
Younghee: Then how many times a week do you train like that, before a competition?
Sangjun: Before a competition, I used to train five times in Chuncheon and about four times in Seoul. Because I need to train a lot.
Younghee: I see. There are individual matches but to prepare for team matches, you need to train with others.
Sangjun: Yes. Because we need to work in harmony.
Sangjun: Team members must be able to work together.
Younghee: So for team matches, teamwork is very important in boccia.
Sangjun: Yes, team matches are difficult.
Because team members must work together. So it is hard.
But individual matches are easier.
Younghee: Have you won individual competitions?
Sangjun: Yes, I participated a couple of times in Chuncheon and was in the second and third places.
Younghee: Wow (claps)
Sangjun: Only in Chuncheon.
Younghee: You are now listening to the story of Mr. SangJun Lee, who ranked second and third in individual competitions of boccia.
Sound of cheering
Younghee: You are so great!
You participated in competitions and won them so many times.
As your colleague, I haven’t known much about you for the past one and a half years.
I’m so sorry. I really mean it!
Sangjun: In Seoul, my team was in the first place.
Younghee: Your team was in the first place…
Is there any match you particularly remember?
Like, it’s an unforgettable moment.
Or it’s still in my memory, things like that.
Do you have such a special memory?
Sangjun: In Seoul, there were some individual games.
But in Chuncheon, there aren’t many of them.
Younghee: It would be regrettable for you not to have many competitions in Chuncheon.
Sangjun: Yes, I hope Chuncheon has more competitions.
Younghee: I feel the same way.
So only amateurs can participate in competions of sports for all, right?
National athletes or professionals can’t participate. That would be natural.
Sangjun: I went to a competition and I saw a national athlete.
Sangjun: Yes, in Cheoncheon. So I was surprised too.
Younghee: But you aren’t saying that you had a match with the national athlete, are you?
Sangjun: I had a match with him.
Younghee: Really? It’s so unfair!
Sangjun: I lost the game.
Younghee: What was the score of the match with the national athlete?
Can I ask?
Sangjun: Umm… 6 to 4.
Younghee: Really? An amateur had a match with a national athlete and lost the game but the score was just 6 to 4.
It’s like you won the game. What an amazing score!
Sangjun: But it was regrettable because I almost won the game.
Younghee: But national athletes train every day. They participate in the Olympics and most of them play for boccia teams run by businesses.
They are professional players.
Sangjun: That’s right.
Younghee: But you had a match with them and the score was just 6 to 4.
You should be proud of that.
For me, you are the winner.
Sangjun: Thank you.
Younghee: Chattering with SangJun, I found out something.
As I said before, I have known you for almost two years.
Sangjun: Yes, almost two years.
Younghee: Yes, already. But it is the first time for me to see your big smile. You look so happy today!
Talking about boccia, your eyes are shining.
I want to show SangJun’s shining eyes to all our listeners!
Younghee: It is a very special chattering time. It makes me directly feel how you become enthusiastic when you talk about boccia. So I have another question for you.
Younghee: Why do you like boccia so much? What makes you fascinated by the sport?
Sangjun: I wanted to play sports but there weren’t many things I could do with one hand.
That is why I started boccia.
Younghee: There aren’t many sports you can play with one hand.
Sangjun: Yes, there aren’t many of them so I started boccia.
Younghee: So you began to play boccia by chance but more and more, you fell into the world of the sport.
Sangjun: Yes. Because I like sports a lot.
Younghee: Oh, really?
Younghee: Then what are your other favorite sports?
Sangjun: Other sports… I’m good at scoring goals. I’m also good at basketball shooting.
Sangjun: But I can’t take the ball from others.
Younghee: I see. Most of ball sports like basketball and volleyball involve physical contact with other players and taking the ball from others, as you said.
But Boccia is a rather static sport in which you just throw the balls towards the jack. So you could stay more focused. Now, I understand such uniqueness of the sport.
Younghee: Then you would have a strong arm and great moscular power.
Because you have played boccia all these years.
Sangjun: That’s right. I have a strong arm.
Younghee: Since boccia is open to everyone as a sport for all, could I recommend it to those who want to either strengthen muscles or lose fat in their arms?
Younghee: Boccia is the answer, everyone.
Sangjun: Chuncheon doesn’t have many people who play boccia. So I hope more boccia players come to the city.
Younghee: That’s an important point.
If Chuncheon City or Gangwon Province has more people playing boccia as a sport for all and more boccia clubs for persons with disabilities, the local government could provide more support.
So we ask for your greater interest in boccia!
Younghee: Today’s last question for you is about your dream.
Do you have any dream you want to make come true by playing boccia so enthusiastically?
Sangjun: My dream was to earn boccia grades. But I can’t.
Younghee: What are boccia grades?
Sangjun: Only persons with cerebral palsy can earn those grades.
I have a physical disability so I can only play boccia as a sport for all. So I gave up on the dream.
Younghee: But I heard that persons with other disabilities can earn licences to be coaches or trainers by taking tests.
When I interviwed you before this podcast, you said that you wanted to do your best in boccia to reach the level of teaching others.
Sangjun: That’s right. I want to teach others.
Younghee: Yes. I believe that you can.
Sangjun: Thank you.
Younghee: During this 20-minute podcast, we chattered about boccia, SangJun’s favorite sport.
SangJun, it was the first time for you to speak in a podcast with me.
Younghee: How was it? Could you tell me how you felt?
Sangjun: How I felt? I was nervous.
But saying what I wanted to say one by one, I got less nervous and felt great.
Younghee: You didn’t seem to be nervous.
SangJun, you are so great at hiding your jitters!
Actually, it was also the first time for me to speak in a podcast.
So I had to rely on you today.
You prepared you answers so well so it helped me a lot.
So I think your first podcast with me went smoothly.
I feel so great. And I thank you so much.
Sangjun: I feel great too!
Younghee: Thank you so much.
Sangjun: Thank you!
Younghee: Chattering with SangJun today, I thought that not only Seoul but also other local governments in Korea should take more interest in boccia and actively support the sport.
Not only national athletes of boccia but also those playing boccia as a sport for all need broader support.
That way, many persons with disabilities who love boccia could better enjoy the sport.
The Korean government needs to make bold and creative policy changes so that persons with disabilities who play sports can stay focused without worrying about financial issues anymore.
Then SangJun could take a step forward to realize his dream of becoming a boccia trainer.
I’ll be rooting for SangJun who dreams of becoming a boccia trainer.
Please root for him with me!
Stay healthy everyone and we’ll see you next time.
We are SangJun Lee and Young-hee Park for “Hello, Let’s Chatter!”