There is no rest for the tired as the Canadian Paralympic Boccia team landed in Montreal from Tokyo in early September and were due to start training just two weeks later.
While the team of four Quebecers who represented Canada at the Games did not achieve what they hoped for at the Games, missing the knockout round in the four different events in which they participated, there were flashes posted which augured good for the future of the country in sport.
The experienced Marco Dispaltro, joined in Tokyo by Alison Levine, Iulian Ciobanu in the BC4 class and Danik Allard in the BC2 class, seemed eager to return to the pitch with his teammates.
“Next year is the World Championships, then in 2023 it’s the Parapan Am Games, so it’s very motivating,” Dispaltro told the Toronto Observer, reflecting on the more condensed schedule leading up to the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.
“Sometimes there’s a long down after the Games because it’s so far, but now it’s a very short turnaround.”
The advantage of these four is that they all train in the same Montreal neighborhood, which works wonders both in terms of logistics and team cohesion.
“We’re really lucky,” Levine told the Toronto Observer. “Even with Britain, they’re in different parts of the country.
“The fact that we were able to train with each other was a big plus for us, as well as not having to stay in hotels logistically. We each have our own homes set up and tailored for us. Just those little things that people don’t think about outside of parasport, it makes things a lot easier.
Allard, 20, the youngest member of the team, is an athlete who really enjoys being able to train with the trio BC4, Dispaltro calling him a “sponge” given how quickly he was able to soak up. information and execution on the ground come together.
“The BC4 team is a mentor to me,” Allard told the Toronto Observer, who shocked everyone by qualifying for the Paralympics so early in his career. “I have learned a lot over the years. For me it’s a great opportunity to compete with this team and I appreciate it.
Marco helped jumpstart my career so I just want to say thank you for that. I learn a lot from Marco, Iulian and Alison. I’m still learning.
The Bois-des-Filion native improved in every game he played in Tokyo, losing a hotly contested game to future Japan gold medalist Hidetaka Sugimura 6-4, and ended his tournament with a Dominant 12-1 victory over Diana Tsyplina of the Russian Paralympic Committee.
He also made it a point of honor to work on his English, which pays off in competition for the BC4 team.
“You don’t want the other team to know what you are thinking or developing a strategy, so it is very important to be able to speak another language that the other team does not understand,” said Dispaltro, who finished fifth in mixed pairs. alongside Levine and Ciobanu in Tokyo.
“We also have Iulian, our secret weapon, because he speaks Russian and Romanian, and understands Spanish and Italian. It’s very important to have this in our arsenal.
This close-knit Canadian team is well prepared for future competition.
Levine, 31, entered the Paralympic Games as the world’s No.1 ranked player in the BC4 class, in addition to being the world’s No.1 ranked woman, which will be a big advantage when the men and women women are separated for future international competitions in individual play.
Allard will also compete in the regional championships in Brazil as a player ranked No.2 in the BC2 class, rising rapidly in the rankings.
As a former world number one himself, the rankings are something Dispaltro is very familiar with, with Levine referring to Dispaltro as a “man of numbers.”
“Marco told me when he first met me that I was going to be a future world top 10 guaranteed,” said Levine, who eventually climbed to number one in 2020. “ And I looked at him like ‘you’ are crazy. And once I hit the top 10, he said “I told you so”.
The 54-year-old sees many of the same qualities in Allard as he does in Levine.
“We knew that with (Allard’s) attitude, especially in tournaments, he just had ice water in his veins,” Dispaltro said. ” It’s very rare. Most people, when they enter the field, panic a bit, but with him it’s the opposite.
“For Alison, I saw that she had the sporting experience, the mental means and the physical tools to do it. Seeing her for the first time, I knew she had this potential. With Danik, it’s the same. They have this mentality and this will to grow up. “
The new face of the BC2 class for Canada will take every opportunity to learn from his teammates as best he can, and simply work on his art to put himself in the best position.
“I just want to work hard,” Allard said of goal setting for the years to come in the sport. “In three years, I’ll be ready for Paris.