BlazeSports’ Boccia National Team at 2011 World Cup

The 2011 Boccia World Cup is currently underway in Ireland. Follow BlazeSports America’s Boccia National Team as they compete against 32 other nations.

BlazeSports America’s 2011 Boccia World Cup Team Heads to Ireland

Wednesday, August 17 was travel day for BlazeSports America’s 2011 National Boccia Team. Our team of 9 athletes and 10 staff departed from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for Belfast Ireland and the 2011 World Cup. Thursday and Friday will be arrival days, classification, equipment check and pre-tournament practice. Saturday, August 20 is Opening Ceremonies and Pairs and Teams begin competition on Sunday, August 21.

The World Cup is the last major international Boccia competition before the 2012 London Paralympic Games and will include 191 athletes from 33 countries.

The 2011 National Boccia Team members are:

BC1 Division

TJ Hawker                 Toledo, OH               Individual and Team Play

Luke Labas              Fort Wayne, IN          Individual and Team Play

Cornelius Oatis       Columbus, OH         Individual and Team Play

Jennifer Jay              Pinellas, FL              Individual and Team Play

BC2 Division

Marck Harrison        Columbus, OH         Individual and Team Play

BC3 Division

Austin Hanson         Topeka, KS               Individual and Pairs Play

Lee Lobmeyer          Topeka, KS               Individual and Pairs Play

Sam Williams          Elmhurst, IL              Individual and Pairs Play

BC4 Division

Patrick Elliot              Peculiar, MO             Individual Play

“Boccia has been on the sport program of the Paralympic Games since 1984. The Paralympic version is based on the game that originated in Italy and has since spread worldwide,” said Carol Mushett Johnson, the Chief Executive Officer for BlazeSports America. “We are very excited to about this team of talent athletes and their chances for medals at the World Cup..”

One of the fastest growing Paralympic sports, boccia is played one-on-one, in pairs or in teams of three and is contested an indoor hard court surface.  The object of the sport is to throw or roll game balls so that they land as close as possible to the target ball called the jack. After all of the balls have been thrown, the closest team receives the number of points equal to the number of balls that they have closer to the jack than their opponent’s closest ball.  The disability sport community initially adopted boccia as a sport for athletes with cerebral palsy but it is now open to all athletes with significant physical disabilities. The sport is a test of concentration, accuracy and strategic ability.

2011 Boccia World Cup:  Team USA Prepares for Competition

Team USA joins 32 other countries in the largest Boccia competition prior to the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

Belfast, Ireland: Team USA joined teams from 33 countries in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2011 Boccia World Cup.  Veteran team member, Lee Lobmeyer, was selected to carry the USA sign during the Parade of Teams, while rookie team member Luke Labas had the honor to be the flag bearer for Team USA.

Luke Labas of Fort Wayne, IN was flag bearer for the Opening Ceremonies.

Lee Lobmeyer of Topeka, KS leads Team USA into the Opening Ceremonies.












With Opening ceremonies over, Team USA began to focus on Sunday’s first round of competition. Team USA combined court time with team strategy meetings to develop a competition plan for the first round of matches.  Team USA (23) begins  pool play with matches against Great Britain (2), Hong Kong (9) and Brazil (12) on Day 1.  Team competition is played with three players per team with two substitute players for a total of five players. Team USA is made of two veteran players TJ Hawker (3-time Paralympian, OH) and Jennifer Jay (2-time Paralympian, FL) and three rookie players, Luke Labas (IN),  Marck Harrison (OH) and Cornelius Oatis (OH).

Team preparations continue off the court in a team strategy session.

Team USA taking full advantage of allotted practice time in preparation for Day 1 of competition.

Team USA’s BC3 Pairs team also has a busy Day 1 of competition. Pairs is played with two players from each team with one substitute.  Team USA’s Pairs Team is made up of three veteran players; Austin Hansen (KS), Lee Lobmeyer (KS) and Sam Williams (IL).  Currently ranked tenth in the world the USA trio is competing for a spot in the 2012 London Paralympic Games.  To get there they need to start by dominating round one of pool play which includes get past Belgium (7), Portugal (2) and Argentina (19).

Team and Pairs play will continue for three days and is followed by individual play. Results will be posted as they come in.

A Father’s Reflections on His Son’s Accomplishments

from Jim Labas,  father of Luke Labas

Thanks again for giving him the honor. He will never forget that, nor will I. Appreciating more each day what this sport does on so many levels.



So today, 3,603 miles from home, a 17 year old athlete carried the flag of his nation onto a floor of competition. He carried it as anyone who has the honor to carry our flag in a foreign land carries it. With pride, honor and a respect for all that it represents. He carried it for everyone back home, especially his Mom, brother and sister back in Indiana cheering him on. His brothers that salute it everyday, everyone that has supported him on this trip and are a big part of making it all possible, his friends and supporters at Turnstone. But mostly he carried it for anyone back home with any form of a disability.

The nine athletes that are here wearing Red, White and Blue represent the best that a core of resilience and determination has to offer. For anyone that faces challenges in everyday life that we with able bodies take for granted. For the extra time it takes just to prepare in the morning to start ones day. For the obstacles in everday life that a world that wasn’t designed for them presents. For dealing with something as simple as a mosquito bite that can’t be scratched, because one cannot will their body to do that simple task, so they just mentally deal with it as they just mentally deal with so many discomforts, aches and pains every single day of their life. But at this time, during this week, in this city in Northern Ireland, they will meet their own. They will meet 200 athletes from 32 other countries that have the same mental tenacity to deal with everyday obstacles and push through the road blocks in their way. They have found a way to compete. An avenue to channel their will to better themselves and push beyond what was their past performance to something even better. They will feel their heart beating through their chest as a key throw is needed at a critical time to score and they will mentally deal with it. They will force their bodies to do more than they are comfortable doing so that they don’t feel they let themselves, their teammates, their coaches and their supporters back home down. How could they? They will focus as any athlete does. They will focus on what they have trained for and practiced. They will push their bodies to excel on a world stage. They will do what everyone with a disability does every single day of their life. Adapt, improve, give it their all and push on. Great Britain, Hong Kong and Brazil are the first on the list. Let the games begin. Proud of you Luke Labas.

Team USA Struggles on Day 1

The 2011 World Cup started with Pairs and Team Play.  Team USA BC3 Pairs team was made of three veteran players, Austin Hanson (KS), Lee Lobmeyer (KS) and Sam Williams (IL).  The USA trio had high hopes of improving their #10 ranking in the world and maybe even qualifying for the 2012 Paralympic Games.

USA Pairs (#10) experienced a very slow offensive start losing their first game to Belgium (#7) by a score of 13 – 1. Their sluggish play continued in the second game against #2 ranked Portugal and it resulted in a 10 – 1 defeat. Third game of the day was against 19th ranked Argentina. As expected the match was much more competitive for our USA Pairs. The wind had been taken out of our Pairs team after their two earlier losses and they just couldn’t pull this one out and lost 4 – 3. With that our Pairs team was done and would not advance out of pool play.

USA Pairs playing 7th ranked Belgium

BC1 & BC2 Team play drew a tough first match against the reigning champions and #2 ranked Great Britain. Although they lost 9 -1, it was an excellent game. With the exception of one end where Team USA  gave up four points, they held GB with excellent blocking allowing only 1 – 2 points per end.

Game 2 paired Team USA against # 9 ranked Hong Kong. Hong Kong dominated winning the match 14 – 1.  Game 3 match Team USA  against # 12 ranked Brazil who hand us our third straight loss 10 – 0.

Team like pairs did not make it out of pool play.

USA Team playing 12th ranked Brazil

Team USA Rolls into Individual Competition

Team USA on a roll in the first day of individual competition with mixed results.

Rookie Team members, Cornelius Oatis and Luke Labas unfortunately drew the same pool and had to go head to head in their first individual match of the tournament.  It turned out to be a very close match, ending in a 2 – 2 tie. In the tie breaker, Luke kissed the jack on his third ball to take the point and eventually the win his first international match, even though it was against his teammate.

Luke Labas gives teammate Cornelius Oatis a quick head rub after their first round match.

Luke’s second match was against Joao Paulo Fernandes of Portugal. Fernandes is ranked #2 in the world after placing second in both the 2010 World Championships and 2009 European Championships. Luke’s international inexperience help him in this match because to Luke Fernandes was just another player. The USA rookie was in the lead in the first end until Portugal kissed the jack with 2 balls to go. Luke set up his block to hold Portugal to 1 point. Coming back in the 2nd end, Luke kissed the jack forcing the Portuguese player to toss all his balls in an effort to score. Luke took the point in second end. Fernandes came back in the third end scoring 2 points followed by Luke scoring a point in end 4. Final score: Luke 2 Portugal 3….an OUTSTANDING MATCH against the #2 ranked player in the world for our young USA player!

Cornelius just off a close loss to his teammate had to face long time international veteran Brock Richardson of Canada who is currently ranked #32 in the world. Similar to Luke’s second match, the USA saw back and forth domination of ends with Canada scoring 1 point in the first end, Cornelius threw long in the second end and scored 1 point, Brock played a short game left in the 3rd end to take the point and finished the 4th end with a very close point for the 3 to 1 win over Cornelius.


Cornelius Oatis congratulates Brock Richardson of Canada on his close win.

Cornelius had two tough matches to finish out his pool play. He lost 7-0 to #2 ranked Joao Paulo Fernandes of Portugal and 2 – 6 to Lukas Balazi (#33) of Slovakia.

Being in the same pool as Cornelius, Luke Labas had to play Brock Richardson (#32) of Canada in his third match of the day. Brock started his boccia career in 2006 and has been a member of the Canadian National team since 2007 and was a member of the Beijing Paralympic Team for Canada. Luke played an excellent game for this being his first international competition. Richardson won a very tight match 3-1.

Team USA BC3 teammates Austin Hanson and Lee Lobmeyer also drew the same pool and had to face off in their first individual match of eth 2011 World Cup. Lee won the toss and chose to throw 1st and 3rd ends from box 3. She placed her jack deep in the back left of the court which provided a great challenge for Austin and resulted in 3 points gained for Lee. In end 2, Austin came back and placed his jack slightly over the V line on his right. He followed up with his blue ball that fell approx. 10″ short of the jack allowing Lee to roll and tighten up the gap. An equipment malfunction caused Lee to run down the clock and she ended up losing the last 3 balls to loss of time. This was a major turn in the game and the opportunity for Austin to score 6 points. In end 3, Lee came back to score 3 points to tie the game 6 – 6. In end 4, Austin busted it open and score 5 point to win the match 11- 6….a well fought battle.

Marck Harrison lost his first match to Pablo Sebastian Gonzales of Argentina 0 – 5. Pablo scored 2 in the first end and Marck held him to 1 point each in end 2, 3, 4 with a very defensive game.

Marck rebounded off his morning loss by winning his afternoon match over local favorite Jason Kearney (#33) of Ireland 3-1 in front of the home crowd!

USA Marck Harrison vs local favorite Jason Kearney of Ireland

In other Team USA first round matches veteran players won 1 of 3 matches:

Tim Hawker (#21ranked) won his BC1 match against Leena Sarela (#40) of Finland 6 – 3

Sam Williams (#58) lost his BC3 match to Keita Kato (#`14) of Japan with a score of 2 – 8

Jen Jay (#47) lost her match 1- 7 against Kam Lung Wong (#20) of Hong Kong


TJ Hawker had an undefeated day of play.

Sam Williams vs Keita Kato of Japan













Team USA rookies drew extremely tough draws against #1 and #2 players in the world:

Marck Harrison lost his BC2 match 2-11 against Zhiqiang Yan (#2) of China

Patrick Elliott was over matched his BC4 game against Pinto Dirceu (#1) of Brasil and lost 13-0 and lost to Domingos Viera 0 – 10 in what is proven to be a very competitive BC4 division.

Later in the day Team USA BC3 results included:

  • Sam Williams (#58) lost  to Sandra Pena (#11) of Spain 1-9
  • Austin Hanson (#17)   lost to  Veronica Pamies (#56) of Spain 1 – 8
  • Lee Lobmeyer (#78)  lost to  Armando Costa (#10) of Portugal 0 -12

Lee Lobmeyer vs Armando Costa of Portugal.

Rounding out the final matches of the day Team USA BC1 players had mixed results:

  • TJ Hawker won his second match of the day against Borris Sever (unranked) of Slovakia, 4 – 0 in a well thought out match
  • Jennifer Jay (#47)  lost to Nunes Neto Antonio (#9) of Brasil 4 – 8
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