Para athlete & Boccia world #1 Claire Taggart shares her sporting journey
Why did you choose to start boccia?
The nature of my disability (dystonia) is progressive, and I’d tried out wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby previously.
A local club was being set up, and I was encouraged to go along, and initially I wasn’t that interested, which surprises most people. It was only after I was selected to represent NI at the UK Championships in 2014, and I saw the level of intricacy and accuracy of boccia at a national and then international level that peaked my interest.
After this competition, I was selected to the World Class Programme of boccia after a 1 day trial in Sheffield, and from this moment my life was inexplicably changed for the better.
What do you enjoy most about the sport?
Boccia is essentially like playing a board game, or chess with the levels of tactics and decision making. I’ve always been more interested in puzzles and games rather than fast paced cardio sport, so in a way boccia is the perfect sport for me!
With boccia there are always new ways of looking at shots, or decisions and athletes globally are always trying to improve and find the next competitive edge. It’s always moving forward, and thinking outside the box with tactics and decisions is imperitive to be competitive.
Where do you see the sport in the next 5 years?
This is a great question, and not one I had considered. This is the first Paralympic cycle where the classifications are not mixed, and I think it is the right time to do it. The female classifications will develop in strength and depth over the next few years, and I look forward to seeing where they get to.
In the next 5 years, I’d like to see that there are more retired boccia athletes who are still involved in the sport globally, through coaching and committees as retired athletes will have the lived experience that is needed to make changes within our sport and within all sports who have athletes with high support needs.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
An even more interesting question! Honestly I have no idea. I’m unsure if I will still be playing boccia, but I’d like to think I will still be involved in the sport in some way!
What would you like to do for the sport?
I am on the British Paralympic Association Athlete Commision, where myself and my fellow athletes give feedback and suggestions to improve athlete experience across all sports not just boccia.
I am always advocating for athletes with high support needs, like myself that there should be better representation in the mainstream media.
Outside of my sport, I am the Disability Access Officer at my local football club Larne FC. My role mainly involves changing infrastructure and improving accessibility at our club. I really enjoy this role and I see so many barriers as a disabled person, but if I can reduce and remove some of those so that everyone can enjoy this football, then I’m keen to do so.
Why are you passionate about your purpose?
As a person with a severe physical disability there are things that I wish that were better for the next generations of disabled people. Although I am just 1 person, shouting loudly within the Paralympic sphere about athletes with high support needs, I hope that one day that our needs will be considered before we even have to ask or request.