BlazeSports’ National Boccia Team Competes in 2011 ParaPan American Games

Daily Update from the ParaPan American Games

Daily Report

Daily Report – Opening Ceremony

Daily Report – Day 1 of Competition

Daily Report – Nov 14

ParaPan Boccia Quarterfinals Tough Round for Team USA

Three USA players advanced from pool to the Quarterfinals of the 2011 ParaPan American Games Boccia Competition.

T.J. Hawker of Toledo, OH advanced in the BC1 division by beating Deiverson Lenon Campos of Brazil 5-1. T.J., currently ranked 18th in the world, faced Quarterfinal opponent Eduardo Ventura of Mexico,  who is ranked 17th in the world.  What should have been a more evenly match game turned out to be uncharacteristically one-sided. T.J., who normally is able to score points against the best of opponents, was shut out by Ventura in a 7-0 win. Unranked BC1 Teammate Kenny Johnson faced 16thranked Mauricio Ibarbure and had a touch match losing 12-2.

Kenny Johnson taking a closer look at points in the BC1 Quarterfinals.

Austin Hanson beat Angie Aya of Columbia  5-1 to win his fourth round BC3 match against Paul Gauthier of Canada. Austin, currently ranked 18th in the world, was hoping for a win over 27thranked Gauthier. Austin scored a point in two of the four ends, but Gauthier scored a total of 5 points to win 5-2.

Austin Hanson in BC3 Quarterfinal action against Paul Gauthier of Canada.

The USA Boccia Team had a successful ParaPan American Games.  Although, no medals were won, all six athletes competed to high international standards.  BlazeSports America salutes their success.

For information about starting a boccia program in your community, contact Jeff Jones at

Team USA Advances Three Athletes into ParaPan Boccia Quarterfinals!

Day 3 of Boccia competition at the 2011 ParaPan American Games  included the final preliminary rounds that determined which players advance to the quarter finals. Three USA players advanced on, while one just missed the opportunity.

T.J. Hawker had a great BC 1 third round match against Deiverson Lenon Campos of Brazil and won 5-1 to be the first Team USA member to advance to the Quarterfinals.  Teammate Kenny Johnson was also attempting to advance in the BC1 division and was matched against Danilo Alvarez of Venezuela.  Kenny lost a close match 4-3, but given his two previous wins, Kenny was the second Team USA  member to earn a spot in the next round.

Kenny Johnson one of two USA BC1 players to advance to Quarterfinals.

Lizzie Flora-Swick was the third BC1 USA player attempting to move on to the quarterfinals. To get to the next round Lizzie had to get past Brock Richardson of Canada.  Lizzie had a slow start and Richardson jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two ends. Lizzie fought back and scored in the two remaining ends, but came up short losing 4-3. At first Team USA coaches were informed that Lizzie did indeed earned a wild card spot to the quarterfinal round.  Team USA staff began getting Lizzie ready for a 3:00 pm match, when Games officials informed Team USA that a mistake was made and that Lizzie’s first international competition was over.  In the sport of boccia, advancement to the championship rounds is not just determined by wins and losses.  The difference in points scored and points given up is called “point differential” and that is the final determination.  In Lizzie’s case her tough 10-1 loss to Eduardo Ventura of Mexico made the difference.  Despite the disappointing news, Team USA coaches are very please with Lizzie’s first experience on the world stage.

Lizzie and her Sports Assistance Dad, Mark Flora-Swick enjoying a great first international experience.

Austin Hanson was the final Team USA member with a chance to move on to the Quarterfinals.  Austin came into round 3 with one win and one loss. Austin had a good match against Angie Aya of Columbia and advanced with a 5-1 win.

Charles Brown concluded his first international competition with a tough 12-0 loss to Eliseu Santos of Brazil, who just happened to be the number one ranked BC4 player in the world and the current World Cup Champion.  Charlie Fleisch finished the 2011 ParaPan Games with a 6-1 loss to Clodoaldo Massardi  of Brazil.

Day 2 of competition at the 2011 ParaPan American Games

Day 2 at the Boccia venue included a number of very competitive matches.  The Boccia venue also had a very special visitor.   Margarita Zavala Calderon, the First Lady of Mexico spent a good portion of the day watching Boccia and encouraging the Mexican players.

First Lady of Mexico attends the Boccia competition.

Charles Brown, coming off a one point loss in round one faced Fabio Moraes of Brazil. Moraes scored well in the first and third ends, while Charlie was only able to score a  single point in the second and fourth end.  Moraes wins 7 to 2.

Charles Brown competes against Moraes of Brazil.

Lizzie Flora-Swick was the only US Team member to have two matches on Day 2. Lizzie carried the excitement of her first international win into a match against Keven Smith-Worthylake of Canada.  Lizzie scored point in the first three ends and held the Canadian to only 2 points in the fourth to win 4-2.  In her second match Lizzie faced Eduardo Ventura of Mexico.  Lizzie hope for her third straight was dashed after a few rookie mistakes.  Ventura took advantage of Lizzie’s mis-cues and won 10-1.

T.J. Hawker  played one of the most technical matches of the day against Jose Chagas of Brazil. The fewest points possible in each end of boccia is one point. T.J.’s match against Chagas had four ends with only one point scored. Unfortunately, T.J. only scored one point and lost a very defensive match 3-1.

Austin Hanson’s second round match was against Maria Rojas of Columbia.  Austin’s offense fell a little short of his first round match and he lost a close game 5-3. In the other USA BC3 match Charlie Fleisch was eager to get in the win column after a tough first round loss. Charlie drew Jair Rojas for the second round. Low scores were the story of the day and this match was no different.  Charlie and Jair each scored points in two of the four ends.  Charlie limited Jair to only 2 points and went on to win his first match of the tournament 4-2.

Kenny Johnson played the last USA match of Day 2. Matched against  Deiverson Lenon Campos of Brazil, Kenny looked to continue his success from Day 1. Kenny scored in three of the four end and  won his second straight match 5-1.

Day 3 of competition will include the final preliminary rounds that will determine which player advance to the quarter finals. Several USA players are well position to move on, if competition goes their way on Day 3.

USA Boccia Has Mixed Results on Day 1 at ParaPans

Opening Ceremonies of the 2011 ParaPan American Games on Saturday, November 12 brought together 1,500 athletes form 24 countries to celebrate the beginning of 10 days of competition in 13 different sports.  The ParaPan American Games were first held twelve years ago and involved 1,000 athletes in only four sports.

Open Ceremonies of the 2011 Parapan American Games was a festive celebration.

The USA Boccia Team just prior to Opening Ceremonies.

BlazeSports America’s USA Boccia Team started competition on Sunday and had mixed results. Team members Kenny Johnson and T.J. Hawker unfortunately end up in the same pool and faced each other in their first round play.  T.J and Kenny finished first and second respectively at the 2011 Nationals, making Saturday’s match a bit of a friendly rivalry.  Kenny had the upper hand on this day and won 7 to 3.

Kenny Johnson and T.J. Hawker battle in first round of the ParaPan competition.

Both T.J. and Kenny had second round matches later in Day 1.  T.J. recovered well from his first round loss and beat Danilo Alvarez of Venezuela 12-1.  Kenny was matched against Carlos Chagas in the second round and could not get his offense rolling, losing 8-1.

The team’s rookie members Lizzie Flora-Swick and Charles Brown had mixed results on Day 1. Lizzie was re-classified from a BC2 to a BC1 and won her first official international game 4-0 against Luitze Yendez of Venezuela.  Her first round win attracted the interest of local fans and she was asked for an autograph after the match.

Lizzie Flora-Swick wins her very first international competition.

A local boccia fan asks Lizzie for an autograph.

Charles Brown had a slow start to his first international match. Rodolfo Villarreal of Mexico scored 4 points in the first and 2 in the second to take a sizeable lead half way through the match.  Charlie broke the ice in the third scoring 1point. Down by 5 Charlie scored 4 points in the last end to fall short 6-5.

In the BC3 competition, Team USA split a pair of first round matches. Veteran player and 2011 National Champion, Austin Hanson,  scored in all four ends to beat Javier Ebergenyl of Mexico 7-0. Teammate Charlie Fleisch had a rough first round match and lost to Martin Dubois of Canada 5-2.

Austin Hanson during an opening round win over Javier Ebergenyl of Mexico.

 Day 2 of competition will have the following match-ups:

Charles Brown vs Fabio Moraes of  Brazil

Lizzie Flora-Swick vs. Keven Smith-Worthylake of Canada

T.J. Hawker vs. Jose Chagas of Brazil

Austin Hanson vs. Maria Rojas of Columbia

Kenny Johnson vs  Deiverson Lenon Campos of Brazil


Boccia Team Salutes Veteran at 2011 ParaPan American Games

Charles Brown, Marine Veteran, named Captain of the 2011 ParaPan Boccia Team.

The BlazeSports America’s ParaPan Boccia Team paid a Veteran’s Day tribute to team member Charles Brown by naming Charlie the Captain of the USA Boccia Team which is competing at the 2011 ParaPan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Charlie is from Loxahatchee, FL and is the first military veteran selected to any U.S. National Boccia Team. Charlie joined the Marines in January of 1985 and experienced a service related spinal cord injury in June of 1986. Charlie is currently a member of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) national Board of Directors and is the President of the Florida PVA Chapter.  “It’s been a long time dream of mine to be a part of Team USA, serving my country again as I did once before. Bringing the spirit of competition back into my life is fulfilling. Being here with other athletes, whether they are veterans or not, just seeing their ‘espirit de corp’ as we used to call it in the Marines, and the kindness they have and their team spirit is fulfilling,” commented Charles Brown.

BlazeSports America thanks Charles Brown and all veterans for their service and congratulates Charlie for being named Captain of the 2011 USA Boccia Team.


Team USA arrived in Guadalajara on Wednesday and went through classification and orientation to the ParaPan Village and competition venues.

Charles Fleisch and Austin Hanson Team USA’s two BC3 competitors practicing for the start on competition on Sunday, November 13.

Thursday and Friday were designated practice days and Team USA took full advantage of the scheduled time on the ParaPan competition courts.

Opening Ceremonies are on Saturday, November 12 is and competition begins on Sunday, November 13. Unlike most international Boccia competition, the 20111 ParaPan American Games only includes Individual Boccia competition. There will not be any Pairs and Team competition.

The ParaPan Games is the last major international competition before the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

National Boccia Team Competes in 2011 ParaPan American Games

Click here for Team, Coach and Staff Roster

Wednesday, November 9 was travel day for BlazeSports America’s 2011 ParaPan Boccia Team. Our team of 6 athletes and 8 staff departed from Houston International Airport for Guadalajara, Mexico and the 2011 ParaPan American Games. Thursday and Friday will be arrival days, classification, equipment check and pre-tournament practice. Saturday, November 12 is Opening Ceremonies and competition begins on Sunday, November 13.

The ParaPan Games is the last major international competition before the 2012 London Paralympic Games.  The 2011 ParaPan Boccia Team members are:

BC1 Division

TJ Hawker                             Toledo, OH

Kenny Johnson                    Chicago, IL

BC2 Division

Elizabeth Flora-Swick         Gardner, KS

BC3 Division

Charles Fleisch                   North Massapequa, NY

Austin Hanson                     Topeka, KS

BC4 Division

Charles Brown                     Loxahatchee, FL

The team represents a mixture of Paralympic and international veterans and international first-timers. TJ, Kenny and Austin have collectively attended five different Paralympic Games. This will be Charlie Fleisch’s sixth international completion since 2003.  Charles Brown and Lizzie will be making their international debut.

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Flora-Swick, 2011 BC2 National Champion, practicing for her first international competition.

“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.

Posted in Blog, Boccia |

BlazeSports Honors America’s Veterans

Ninety-three years ago today, the United States joined the world’s other great powers in signing the armistice that brought an end to World War I. In the years since, we use the anniversary of that date to commemorate and honor the brave men and women who have heeded their country’s call in times of conflict. This Veterans Day, BlazeSports joins people from across the country in offering our sincere thanks to everyone, past and present, who has donned a military uniform in defense of our country and to their families who sacrifice so much as well.

We at BlazeSports are seriously committed to serving the veterans who have so bravely served us. Our organization works closely with the Atlanta VA Medical Center and with veterans organizations throughout the southeast. Sport has proven to be an incredibly powerful instrument for rehabilitation and recreation, and we are proud to organize programming for veterans who are adjusting to life after battlefield injuries. Just this August, many of the veterans we worked with participated in the VA Wheelchair Games in Pittsburgh. Our commitment also extends to active-duty servicemen and women. As part of our continuing efforts with the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) at Fort Stewart, we recently held a train-the-trainer archery event for 13 WTU members. We are humbled to work with so many brave individuals. There is no way we can repay our debt to those who have served, but we pledge to do all we can to serve them.

Posted in Blog |

Studying Our Schools: Research is the First Step

Greendale High School, Greendale, WI. Pic courtesy of Patch.

The local news website ran an article yesterday about the diminishing numbers of students with disabilities who choose to participate in extracurricular activities at Greendale High School in Greendale, Wisconsin. This is, of course, not good news. However, the fact that the school keeps tabs on these numbers is a very good thing. I’m not an expert on education, so I’m not sure of how many school systems follow the example of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and keep this kind of data (I’d guess not enough of them). However, this sort of monitoring is crucial to make sure that our public institutions–and our society at large–are living up to their responsibilities to serve Americans with disabilities.

There is a direct link between information and social change. Problems cannot be addressed if we don’t know that they exist, and where they do exist, the more data we have about them, the better able we are to eliminate them. It is easy to sneer at the “endless” studies and “dizzying” bureaucracies. Waste and inefficiency should certainly be rooted out where it exists, but if we don’t have a system in place to monitor seemingly small issues like whether kids with disabilities in Greendale are participating in their school’s offerings, real live human beings–children–will fall through the cracks.

Study is, of course, only the first step. Effective action must follow. But rather than condemn the unequal participation at GHS, we should commend the school for monitoring ways they can improve. Nice first step, Greendale. Now, let’s get those kids active.

Posted in Blog |

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month

National Lung Cancer Awareness Month is an event close to the heart of BlazeSports, particularly because Americans with disabilities are almost 50% more likely to smoke than their counterparts without disabilities. Smoking is responsible for 90% of lung cancer deaths in men and 80% in women. If you’re a smoker, we sincerely hope that you’ll consider using this month as an impetus for quitting. There are plenty of resources online to help you quit (here and here, for example). Longtime smoker President Barack Obama was recently declared “tobacco free” by his doctors, and we encourage all Americans to follow his example.

Posted in Blog |

NYC Marathon hand-cycle champion cited

Winner of NYC Marathon – Hand Cycle Division highlighted at

Winner of hand cycle division of NYC Marathon



Posted in Blog, Cycling |

Equal Rights Center Releases Shocking Report on ADA Compliance

Bad news, friends. The Equal Rights Center (ERC) has issued a report titled “Ill-Prepared: Health Care’s Barriers for People with Disabilities,” and the picture it paints isn’t exactly a pretty one. Though the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that health care providers make reasonable efforts toward accessibility, the report finds that fewer that 25% of providers current comply with these standards. That’s right. Three out of every four medical establishments in this country don’t live up to the specifications outlined by the ADA. Of all industries, you’d expect the medical professions to be aware of the needs of the disability community.

Access to proper medical care is essential for healthy lifestyles, and this is especially true for people with disabilities who may have needs not confronted by other demographics. The current rate of accessibility is a national embarrassment, and BlazeSports hopes the ERC report (available here) serves as a wake up call for medical professionals.

Posted in Blog |

The White House Reflects on NDEAM

Kathleen Martinez of the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) has come and gone, and Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Disability Employment Policy at the Department of Labor, has penned a nice reflection on the month that was for the White House blog. As Martinez accurately points out, “[T]he employment of people with disabilities is one of the last great frontiers in advancing civil rights.  While we have made incredible advancements in independent living and accessibility, the employment rate of people with disabilities is too low.” We have come far, but there is still far to go.

The theme for this year’s NDEAM was “Profit by Investing in Workers with Disabilities,” and it rightly points out that by not extending employment opportunities to people with disabilities, we all lose. Hiring a person with a disability is not a good deed or an act of charity; it’s an intelligent business move that taps into an incredibly capable and astonishingly underemployed demographic. Discrimination–be it simple bigotry or broad structural impediments–is a moral, humanitarian, and economic ill for our whole society. Our country does not reach its collective potential until each of its individuals has the opportunity to pursue the full reach of his or her capabilities. Let NDEAM remind us of that, and as Martinez writes, “let’s celebrate the spirit of NDEAM every day of every month.”

Check out Kathleen Martinez’s full post here.

Posted in Blog |