Claire Taggart





Mary Peters Trust athlete

Since 2014

Current study/work

studying part-time for a degree in Forensic Psychology through the Open University. Already have a qualification in Animal Management via Northern Regional College.




I am part of the Boccia UK World Class Programme

Achievement I’m most proud of

Winning the British Championships in Boccia in 2019

What is your current goal

Training for and competing in the Boccia World Championships in Rio de Janeiro this coming December (2022)

It may seem like a simple game – but Boccia requires a forensic approach

Boccia is a precision ball sport related to bowls and petanque and requires a forensic approach if a player wants to win. And that’s exactly the attitude Mary Peters Trust athlete Claire Taggart has. As well as her sport she’s studying Forensic Psychology part-time through the Open University – on top of an already completed Animal Management qualification for which she attended Northern Regional College.

Claire is a woman of many talents and has also set up her own business, Nifty Notebooks NI, in addition to training and travelling to competitions. Claire has been an integral part of the Boccia UK World Class Programme for the past 7 years, competing on the national and international circuits individually and as a member of the BC 1/2 team.

“It really is the most inclusive sport – like no other sport can be,” says Claire. “Regardless of the severity of your disability there is a competition classification that allows athletes to be ultra-competitive right up to the pinnacle of disability sport – the Paralympic Games.”

Boccia became an official Paralympic sport back in 1984 and is one of only two sports not to have an Olympic counterpart – the other is Goalball. It’s mixed sex and can be played indoors or outdoors, is contested at national and international levels, and is governed by BISFED (Boccia International Sports Education).

“It may seem like a simple game to the onlooker, but the decision making, tactics and rudimentary skills means it can be a very intense game to watch and to play. The best thing about boccia is its skillfulness and technicality.”

In 2014 Claire joined a local boccia club in her hometown of Larne as a way of meeting other like-minded people and also to help her navigate dystonia – a neurological condition she had been diagnosed with.

“My sport and the boccia community are all about independence as well as learning and sharing ways to improve ourselves. As our athletes all have severe physical disabilities, we each have learnt different ways to be independent, share knowledge and encourage one another to be the best that we can be. Excelling at sport has empowered me to meet people from all over the world and has really developed my confidence in sport and life.”

It’s a busy schedule for Claire as she trains four days a week on court alongside gym conditioning and physio work on other weekdays. Claire is currently working with a new coach – Glynn Tromans. She mostly trains on her own but does travel across the water for training camps at least once a month.

Indeed, it was support from the Mary Peters Trust that enabled the former Larne Grammar School pupil to travel to her very first competition in 2014 – the UK Championships where Claire was talent spotted.

“Without the funding to attend the event I’m not sure I would ever have discovered how much boccia could change my life. It was an amazing moment as it made me realise that I was a talented athlete, that I could make a career out of sport, and that it was something I would be really good at. It gave me so much confidence and self-esteem being in a room with other young athletes and validated my dream of being a professional athlete despite my physical disability.”

Claire’s career highlight to date is winning the British Championships at home in 2019. But time doesn’t stand still and Claire points out that boccia is very innovative, is continually evolving and there are always new techniques to learn to help athletes in their quest to become the best they can be. Claire is currently training for the World Championships which takes place in Rio during December. Building up to these she has a range of competitions in Brazil, Portugal and Italy.

Claire pays tribute to her family as their support alongside that of the Mary Peters Trust has been amazing.

“Without my parents I couldn’t compete internationally or train at the top level. Due to my disability, I require a lot of care to get ready, eat, get around etc so my dad always travels with me as my sports assistant and carer.

“My mum stays at home when we travel, to look after my border collie – Rio and my 6 tortoises and bearded dragon. My parents are my biggest fans and cheerleaders and I’m so grateful that their support has enabled me to compete at the highest levels.”

Claire’s advice to any young athlete who is just starting out is, “Don’t get frustrated by a lack of progress or slow progress. It all takes time. Make sure you look after yourself, both physically and mentally as aiming for the best and total perfection takes its toll.”

And whilst Claire hates talking openly about ultimate sporting ambitions, she admits her greatest dream would be to win a Paralympic medal. “Not for me,” says Claire, “But for my parents and my community as they have given me so much support and backing. I have no idea as to how I’ll ever repay them!

Outside boccia Claire’s medium-term plans are to develop her business, finish her degree and take up a full-time job. Meantime she would love to spend more time with her boyfriend Scott, who is also part of the Boccia UK World Class Programme, and get some time together to head off on holiday when they are both not busy playing boccia.

Claire’s words of inspiration: “Look after yourself physically and mentally – aiming to be the best is always tough and demanding!”