Olympic medal-winner hopes to encourage more people to play paralympic sport
- Credit: Archant
A gold-medal winning paralympian from Dunmow organised a boccia tournament for disabled people as part of his mission to get more young athletes playing the sport.
Dan Bentley, 35, who secured gold with his team mates at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics and bronze four years later in London, co-ordinated the Essex Boccia Cup, held in Saffron Walden on Saturday (October 19), with 20 athletes from Hatfield, Hertford and Uttlesford taking part.
Dan, who has cerebral palsy, said: "It was excellent, everyone said it was such a friendly atmosphere. Boccia is played all over England, there isn't enough competitive boccia for young athletes and it needs a competition in the area to get players playing."
Boccia is played by people with physical disabilities and the aim is to throw coloured balls as close as possible to a target.
Dan started playing boccia at 16-years-old, whilst at Treloar School and College in Hampshire. He progressed to the England team and then started playing for Great Britain.
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Describing his experience at the 2008 and 2012 games, he said: "We went out to Bejing not as favourites. We just went out and beat them all and just kept going. In London the atmosphere was amazing. Even after we were beaten in the semi-final we got cheered on.
"I am now trying to give something back to boccia. I have been able to travel around the world competing. Sport is for everyone and everyone can do it," he said.
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As well as serving as a referee during boccia matches, Dan coaches a small group on Saturday at 9am, at the Lord Butler Leisure Centre in Saffron Walden, where the tournament was held, and is keen for more beginners to join the sessions. All ages are welcome.
"Organising it [the tournament] was the hard thing. I am hoping to do another one in the spring and then keep going and hopefully it can get bigger in Essex," he said.
Dan thanked the leisure centre and Active Essex for their donations to the tournament, which saw Gowain Akers scoop first place, Paddy Morrin secure second place and Katie Akers come in third.
To join Dan's Saturday sessions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.