Home » ‘Eye on the prize’: Queensland primary school calling for challengers in Paralympic sport

‘Eye on the prize’: Queensland primary school calling for challengers in Paralympic sport

Sam Thorne knows what its like to watch from the sidelines with no option for inclusion, but it’s a fate the 17-year-old is ensuring others don’t experience. 

Sam has “near-complete quadriplegia” and is on a ventilator.

They have teamed up with a Brisbane primary school in an attempt to include boccia in the interschool sport competition so students with and without a disability can compete side-by-side. 

MacGregor State School students with and without a disability play boccia together.(ABC News: Sarah Richards)

MacGregor State School’s head of special education, Jessica Kanowski, said introducing the Paralympic sport boccia has encouraged a “team atmosphere” amongst the students.

“The children really have their eye on the prize,” she said.

Boccia is one of the fastest-growing and most inclusive Paralympic sports, according to Boccia Australia.

“[The students] love that they are able to play alongside all of their friends,” Ms Kanowski said.

young girl in school uniform looks at camera

Year six student Jiahang Liu says boccia is “exciting”.(ABC News: Sarah Richards)

Year six student Jiahang Liu said “versing each other” in Boccia was “exciting”.

“Our team often wins,” the 12-year-old said.

The primary school wants to bring the “inclusive” sport to other schools.

Queensland schools compete against each other in almost weekly interschool sport competitions.

Seven boccia balls with a group of students in the background

The primary school wants to bring the “inclusive” sport to other schools.(ABC News: Curtis Rodda)

Students not involved in the tournaments are offered alternative programs at their schools.

MacGregor State School year 6 teacher Leanne Harvey said it means students who didn’t play “traditional sports” often missed out on opportunities to play in a team.

As an alternative program to interschool sport, about 200 students each term from the primary school in years four to six have been learning how to play boccia.

Woman smiling at camera

Year six teacher Leanne Harvey has been helping teach the students how to play boccia.(ABC News: Sarah Richards)

The sport focuses on accuracy and strategy as players aim to throw leather balls as close to a white ball, called the jack, as possible.

Ms Harvey said the primary school students were hesitant about the game but the “competitiveness” quickly grew during the matches.

“It is an inclusive sport where all children have access to it,” she said.

‘Output for my athletic side’

Queensland and national boccia champion Sam Thorne has shown the students how to play.

Ms Harvey said Sam’s tips and hints were “enriching for the students and the staff”.

The 17-year-old, who graduated high school this year, said there were no options for them to join a sport at school.

ball on ramp near person in a wheelchair

Sam Thorne showing others with a disability they can be included. (ABC News: Sarah Richards)

Instead, Sam sat in the classroom during interschool sport thinking, “I could be playing boccia or practising right now”.