The first time Seo Min-gyu (18) encountered the sport of boccia was in the first grade of elementary school. He was recommended by the special class teacher. Even when he was attending physical therapy before school, the teacher asked me to try it, so I was curious. Born with cerebral palsy, his world widened after encountering Boccia. As he got the ball rolling, he went to different places and met different people. Seo Min-gyu, who we met on the 17th at the Icheon Disabled Athletes’ Village in Gyeonggi-do, said, “Boccia gave me dreams and hopes.”
Boccia is a special game designed for people with cerebral palsy and equivalent motor dysfunction, similar to curling. 1 point is awarded for the ball thrown closest to the white target ball at each end with 6 blue and red balls each on a 12.5m x 6m flat and smooth floor field. The individual event has 4 ends, and the team event has 6 ends. The ball can be thrown by hand, or a mouse stick or gutter can be used with the help of a coach. Seo Min-kyu, who is rated BC2, throws the ball himself without a partner.
Minkyu Seo started doing boccia relatively early. When he was 9 years old, he first competed in the National Disabled Students Sports Festival, and from the 5th grade of elementary school, he competed in adult competitions. His mother, Kim Eun-hee, always accompanies him at every competition. “Because when a believer is in front of you, your heart is at ease” (Seo Min-gyu). Mr. Kim said, “(Seo) Mingyu is still young, so he tends to have emotional ups and downs during matches. When he thinks the child is sensitive, he takes a posture like pressing both hands down.” In addition, he said, “Even when he wins a game, he tends to tell me what is wrong right away. That way he won’t make the same mistake next time.”
Seo Min-gyu (left) and his mother Kim Eun-hee, representing Boccia at the Hangzhou Asian Para Games. Provided by Korea Sports Association for the Disabled먹튀검증
The charm of Boccia, in Seo Min-gyu’s opinion, is its unexpectedness. Seo Min-gyu said, “The game is unpredictable. Like a ball that doesn’t know where it will bounce, you can’t know the outcome.” In the case of curling, the stone (17.24 ~ 19.96kg) itself is heavy, so it is difficult to move within the target (house) area, but in the case of the boccia ball (275g), it is light and easy to scatter. That’s why strategy is important and depending on the concentration, there are many cases where the game is reversed in the second half of the game. Seo Min-gyu laughed, saying, “Sometimes I feel superhuman abilities.”
Seo Min-gyu wore the Taegeuk mark for the first time this year while winning the National Boccia Championships. At first, he had no sense of reality at all, but after entering the Icheon Athletes’ Village, he seems to feel a sense of pressure. He did the same at Jangbae in Gwangju this year. He won 1 win and 1 loss in the preliminaries and advanced to the round of 16 as a wild card, advancing to the final after hard work. He took about two minutes to release his first ball because he thought he had to show good form as a national team member. He has to throw 6 balls within 4 minutes of the time limit, so if he releases the first ball late, he will be pressed for time and pressure towards the second half of the game. Mr. Kim said, “I think there was probably a psychological burden.” With about two months left until the Hangzhou Paralympic Asian Games (October 22-28), it is necessary to train to throw the first ball quickly.
Seo Min-gyu said, “The more you go up one level, the more greedy you become. So, every time I throw the first ball, I have all sorts of random thoughts.” Even though my mom has a sore ankle ligament, she is still by my side, and I really want to show her running up to the Paralympics.” I want to climb to the podium at the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games as well as challenging for two gold medals in the individual and team events at the Hangzhou Games. In the distant future, I want to become a dream leader. “I think it will be helpful because I am well aware of the difficulties that children like myself face,” he said. All of his dreams were born after playing Boccia.
Seo Min-kyu’s right hand, representing Boccia at the Hangzhou Asian Para Games. The ring is a family ring worn by his mother and two younger brothers. Reporter Kim Yang-hee
Seo Min-kyu loves soccer so much that he watches the English Premier League (EPL) every day off. He mentioned his family throughout the interview. And he defined his family as “trees.” “The mother is the root of the tree, and the children are the leaves. Because her mother supported her, she was able to grow up with me and her younger siblings. I also want to become a root and help my younger siblings later.” He is still only 18 years old. However, he was a ‘firstborn’ whose heart pocket was bigger than his body or mind. There is a callus on his right hand that he developed from constantly throwing the ball. He has no strength in his hands to the point where he can’t write straight, but he grips as tightly as a boccia ball. He believes that is the only thing he can do for a mother who is sacrificing herself and for her younger siblings.
As mentioned at the beginning, Seo Min-gyu said that he had dreams and hopes after starting Boccia. “Children with disabilities move within the same pattern, treatment room-school-treatment room-school, but I broke that pattern when I started Boccia. I want people with and without disabilities to exercise. There is power that exercise gives. I feel a sense of joy and a sense of accomplishment, and that’s how much I get the driving force of my life. I wish I could feel the same way.”