Rachel's Paralympic dream is back on thanks to charity

Boccia player Rachel Ross with Tom Grazier of Lubrizol (left) and Remap volunteer Paul Gillians, who designed the ball rack for her wheelchair.
Boccia player Rachel Ross with Tom Grazier of Lubrizol (left) and Remap volunteer Paul Gillians, who designed the ball rack for her wheelchair.

A boccia player from Eastwood is dreaming of making the Great Britain Paralympic team after a local charity designed a special device to allow her to take part in competitive matches.

Rachel Ross is able to play the sport internationally again after the bespoke invention kept her within the rules.

Boccia is a sport specially designed for athletes with severe physical difficulties, who compete by rolling leather balls across a court in a bid to get it as close to a smaller ball, called a jack, as possible.

Rachel, who was born with cerebral palsy, plays with Nottinghamshire Boccia Club and trains once a month with Sheffield club the Knights.

She previously represented England at boccia but took a break from the game to concentrate on her university studies.

But when she returned to the game, she faced a problem because her electric wheelchair had nowhere she could store each ball ahead of each throw – and the rules prohibit competitors from being handed balls by an assistant.

So Rachel turned to the Derby, Burton & District branch of Remap, which recruits retired engineers to design and build inventions to help people with physical disabilities live independent lives.

Volunteer Paul Gillians devised a rack made from plastic guttering and wood, which he initially fixed across Rachel’s lap.

However, this affected her posture on each throw, so Paul altered the rack and fitted it the right handle of her wheelchair, making Rachel once again compliant with official boccia rules.

She said: “I hadn’t heard about Remap before but what they have done for me is fantastic.

“I started playing boccia for fun and there is a real social side to it, but I’m hoping to take it more seriously to see if I can represent Great Britain one day.

Paul, from Ripley in Derbyshire, was a chartered mechanical engineer by trade and has worked for Remap for a number of years.

He said: “Rachel’s rack is a very simple device and we had to make a few adjustments, but I am very pleased with the way it has turned out and I’m delighted she can participate fully in boccia again.”

Remap has also just been given a £500 donation from Belper company Lubrizol, which will enable it to create 15 new products over the next 12 months.

Tom Grazier, vice-chairman of Lubrizol’s charities and community committee, said: “We have supported Remap for a number of years and are very proud that our donations help volunteers such as Paul make a difference to people like Rachel.”