By Tom Degun

Sydney Olympic ParkFebruary 7 - Sydney has been named as the host the 2013 Asia Oceania Boccia Championships this October.

The competition will take place at the Sydney Olympic Park (pictured top) from October 18 until 26 while it will be delivered by the newly created Boccia International Sports Federation and Boccia Australia.

The event marks the first international boccia event staged in Australia since the Sydney 2000 Paralympics.

The announcement is also a boost for boccia in Australia, which has experienced a greater focus on improving the development pathway for players and coaches since the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) Boccia programme was revamped following the Beijing 2008 Paralympics.

In the four years since, an injection in funding by the APC has helped increase participation numbers by 1,000 per cent nationally, and assisted the growth of programmes in each state and territory.

There are now 18 senior and junior athletes in boccia's Paralympic Preparation Programme (PPP), with many vying for national selection to compete at October's regional championships.

"Boccia has a unique and important place in Paralympic sport because it is aimed at athletes with a high level of disability," said APC Chief Executive Jason Hellwig.

"The APC is committed to providing opportunities for people of all abilities to play sport.

"We know that sport improves an individual's health and that it also improves the social wellbeing of an individual with a disability, particularly those with a more significant level of disability.

"The work undertaken with the boccia program has showcased the breadth of the work the APC does from a development level right through to the high performance level.

"We hope that the profile of boccia in Australia will increase as a result of the championships and that new players are attracted to the sport.

"It's been too long since we've seen an Australian boccia athlete at the Paralympic Games."

BocciaBoccia has been on the Paralympic Games sports programme since 1984

The Championships will see the top Asian nations come to Sydney, with 12 countries expected to compete in total.

APC Pathways Development Coordinator Paul van Oosten, who has helped drive the development of the sport in recent years, says Australia's athletes will get the best possible start to their Rio 2016 campaign.

"For many, international competition is something very new," van Oosten said.

It is a massive coup to have the regional championships on home soil as our athletes have the advantage of limited travel, in a sport where extensive travel can be difficult to manage

"Our players will be exposed to the world's top players from Asia, which will serve as an excellent benchmark to measure themselves against.

"It's a great mark of the hard work the APC has put in to developing the sport."

Boccia was introduced to the Paralympic Games at 1984 and is designed to test muscle control and accuracy as players throw, kick or use a chute device to propel a leather ball as close as possible to a small white ball, which serves as a jack.

It is open to athletes with a physical impairment that affects both their arms and legs such as cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury, spinal damage or muscular dystrophy.

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