His severe disability, which effectively means his muscles will not develop, prevented him from kicking the foot or turning his arm.
School life was difficult, but when he was 15, Michel discovered boccia in a camp for people with disabilities and never looked back.
â€œI think he’s ready for this moment. He has had it in mind for several years and is in his journal.
“It has completely changed my life,” said Michel, who will also compete in the BC3 pairs event with another up-and-coming Australian boccia player, Spencer Cotie, who has cerebral palsy. â€œFrom that day forward, my goal has been to be the best I can be at this sport. “
About eight years ago, as part of a Canon Australia campaign, Waugh met Michel and his family and took some photos of the 18-year-old.
The Steve Waugh Foundation partially funded Michel’s robotic arm, which gave him a certain degree of independence.
Waugh and Michel have kept in touch and on a few occasions the former test captain has come downstairs to watch the youngster train at the Cronulla Library, where there is an adjoining boardroom that he uses.
Michel let Waugh try too, prompting the rising star to tweet: â€œHe scored 10,000 test runs, but can he line up a boccia ramp?
“He is as committed as any athlete I have ever seen,” Waugh told the Herald.
â€œI think he’s ready for this moment. He has had it in mind for several years and is in his journal. He looked at it, waited for it and analyzed it.
â€œI run into Daniel all the time in the mall and he has a pretty busy social life.
“He said he had been to all these far away places [where] I never imagined they were playing boccia. He is all over the world.
Boccia has been a Paralympic sport since 1984 and tests an athlete’s degree of control and precision. It is intended exclusively for athletes with a significant physical disability.
The object of the game is for wheelchair athletes to propel leather balls as close as possible to a white ball or a “jack”, similar to grass balls.
Players can throw, kick, or use a ramp device to send the balls down, depending on their handicap.
McClure, his assistant, is essential to his success. She sits in front of Michel, with her back to the balls, and positions the ramp and the balls according to her precise instructions. A remarkable amount of strategy and tactics is involved.
Michel, who has limited use of his arms and uses a robot, propels the ball up a ramp using a device he controls with his mouth.
â€œAsh is basically the body of the operation. I have to give him all the instructions, â€said Michel. â€œShe has no right to talk to me or watch the court at all. It’s a one-way communication and it needs to be really succinct. We have to have a good relationship because we only have six minutes.
Michel won silver and bronze medals at the 2018 world championships in the UK and is now ranked fourth in the world in the BC3 individual category.
Australia haven’t won a boccia medal since Atlanta in 1996, but the quiet word in Tokyo is that Michel could be the man to break a 25-year-old hoodoo.
Michel’s best shot of boccia? One of the Kansas City Open in 2017, where he hits one of his balls in a pack that ricochets off his opponent’s and perfectly next to the jack (check this around the 12 minute mark above ). â€œThere is no more satisfying feeling in sports,â€ he wrote on Instagram at the time.
Michel and McClure train five times a week and were forced to use his garage during the COVID-19 lockdown, with boccia pitches prohibited. But the duo perfected their craft, with the glory of Tokyo in mind.
â€œAs I approach my second Games, I’m in a different frame of mind than the last ones,â€ said Michel.
“This time around, as world No.4, I have a bit of a background now, so [Iâ€™m] feel a little better in my ability to perform.
“Rio definitely made me want to come back and try to do better next time.”