ABBEVILLE — Ashley Bond is proud. When she first meets someone, she shows off the gold medal that hangs from a red ribbon around her neck.

She earned it over the weekend by winning bocce matches at the state Special Olympics in Columbia. If all goes well, she could earn another gold medal in June when she represents Abbeville and South Carolina in the national Special Olympics in Orlando.

Any awards Ashley earns will get a place of pride at her home. Her mother, Gloria, said they have two cases filled with honors from previous competitions. She’s probably got 100 medals and countless ribbons and awards.

Basically, Ashley said, bocce is like bowling, but outdoors.

Ashley learned she was going to nationals in October. It isn’t her first such trip. Gloria said Ashley participated in nationals in bocce in 2014. She was Abbeville’s only representative in those games, just like this year’s nationals.

She has been in Special Olympics since she was 9, her mother said. Now Ashley is 41. She started in swimming, basketball and track and field competitions. She got into bocce about 10 years ago.

No nervousness is evident in Ashley. High fives are a common gesture. Her mother said they are her favorite way to celebrate. When asked about what strengths she brings to the bocce court, Ashley flexed her right arm to show off her bicep.

Planning and strategy also are parts of the game, Gloria said.

Bocce takes place in two teams of two players each. Each player has two large balls called bocce. A smaller ball called the pallino is the target.

The team going first throws the pallino and the place where it comes to a stop becomes the target. Teams and players alternate throws until all eight balls have been thrown. Players try to make their team’s bocce be the closest to the pallino.

Joining Ashley in Orlando will be her parents, friends and supporters with the Special Olympics organization.

What she likes best about Special Olympics is the participants are just as happy if someone else wins, Gloria said. “She’s competitive, but she likes the other person to win. I love that.”

The main thing is to have fun. It’s not all about competition, she said. It’s about them learning sportsmanship and being good individuals.

Because of her mother’s recent surgery, Ashley hasn’t practiced as much as usual. Gloria said her daughter needs to walk more. The Special Olympics organization gave her a fitness watch. It measures sleep, walking, water consumption — all kinds of health-related factors. An area of Chestnut Park was marked off for Ashley to practice.

The community has been supportive of her participation. Gloria said. Supporters have sold T-shirts to raise money for the trip to Orlando. During the spring festival, Bond’s supporters will raffle items to raise funds. Items include wreaths, baskets, pictures and craft items. They also will sell banner that says “No. 1.”

Asked if other people should get into bocce, Ashley broke out with an enthusiastic “Oh yeah!”

Contact staff writer Robert Jordan at 864-943-5650.