July 17-20 saw the best Boccia players in the country converge on Georgia Tech University for USA Boccia Nationals. Boccia is a Paralympic sport. It is played on a gym court with the object to get your balls closer to the target ball than your opponent. The game takes strategy, precision and patience. There are approximately 350 internationally-ranked Boccia players.
Elizabeth Flora-Swick, sophomore at Gardner Edgerton High School, came into the tournament ranked 4th in the nation. After a stellar performance, she left as a National Champion. The door is now open to represent the United States in international competition.
Team competition began on Friday morning with Elizabeth Flora-Swick (KS), AB Anwar (CA) and Jennifer Jay competing (FL) competing as Sunflower Boccia.
The team competition is made up of Class 1 and Class 2 players. Jennifer Jay is one of the best BC1 players in the country. AB and Elizabeth make a great team together as BC2.
Sunflower Boccia went 4-0 in pool play and defeated Team USA 5-4 and 8-4 to claim the gold medal. Team USA will be competing at the Americas Cup in Montreal this October.
Individual play began Saturday afternoon. The individual competition are where the rankings are counted. AB Anwar, Bridget Mason, Chris Ludwig, and Elizabeth Flora-Swick were the top four USA BC2 players coming into the tournament.
In the first round match Elizabeth defeated Chris Ludwig from Chicago 9-0. "I was really nervous when Chris's first serve was followed up with a perfect shot. He placed the ball right in front of the target ball and blocked me completely," Elizabeth said. The first end went back and forth like two heavyweights exchanging punches. Each knocked the other off the target, only to be pushed away on the next shot.
Elizabeth scored on her fifth ball and Chris was not able to move any closer. Elizabeth threw her 6th ball away to take a one point lead.
Elizabeth went to her sweet spot in the corner and scored two more points in the second end. In the third end Chris made a mistake on his serve and Elizabeth capitalized, scoring four points.
"This was a big win for me. I beat Chris head to head last year but he won the championship on points," Elizabeth said.
International rules require the competitors to be in the Call room 15 min before the match. This is where balls are checked and court assignments are made. AB Anwar was late to the call room and forfeited the match 6-0.
Elizabeth played Bridget Mason from Chicago on Saturday morning. Bridget won the first end 1-0. In the second, Elizabeth threw deep to challenge Bridget. It was a close call with Elizabeth scoring 1 point to tie the match. In the third end Bridget left an opening and Elizabeth capitalized scoring 4 points.
In the final end Elizabeth threw short and made the score 7-1 with three balls left. To make a statement to the crowd, she launched her last two balls out the back of the court. This small young woman from Kansas could play with the veterans of Boccia!
Coach Mark Flora-Swick was pleased with her gutsy play. "She has been practicing hard all summer, knowing when to defend and when to attack. When you have an opening you cannot miss taking advantage. Elizabeth did this the whole tournament"
Elizabeth's last game was against Kristen Gooch from Austin Texas. Kristen was the only player that challenged Elizabeth with the deep shot. Elizabeth was able to answer and won 5-0.
A national championship in individual play puts Elizabeth on track to represent the United States at international competitions. That opportunity will come May 30th - June 11th 2010 at the World Boccia Championships to be held in Lisbon, Portugal. Athletes from over 29 countries will compete at the 2010 Boccia World Championships. Portugal, Spain, Great Britain and China are the powerhouse teams in the world.
"Lizzie" Flora-Swick has emerged as the hottest new prospect for the US Boccia Team. Elizabeth brings exactly what the sport of Boccia demands: Skill, Strategy, and Dedication." Cathy Drobny, International Boccia Referee, local coach and former Chair of the US Boccia Technical Committee said.
Bill Drobny, Boccia Official and coach, put it this way. "Elizabeth spent time on court and came back to Kansas with a National Championship! Next stop the World!"
Story courtesy http://www.gardneredge.com