There’s no rest for the tired when the Canadian Paralympic bocce team returned to Montreal from Tokyo in early September and was scheduled to start training just two weeks later.
While the four-man Quebecois team that represented Canada at the Games did not get what they hoped for at the Games and missed the playoff round at the four different events they attended, there were lightning bolts seen, which is good for the future of the country in sport.
Seasoned Marco Dispaltro, supported in Tokyo by Alison Levine, Iulian Ciobanu in BC4 class and Danik Allard in BC2 class, seemed eager to get back on the field with his teammates.
“Next year it’s the World Championships, then the Parapan Am Games in 2023, that’s very motivating,” Dispaltro told The Toronto Observer, reflecting the tighter schedule for the Paralympics in Paris in 2024.
“Sometimes there is a long down after the games because it is very far, but now it is a very short turn.”
One advantage of these four is that they all train in Montreal from the same area, which works wonders on both a logistical level and team cohesion.
“We’re really lucky,” Levine told The Toronto Observer. “Even with Great Britain they are in different parts of the country.
“The fact that we were able to train together was a great benefit for us, not having to stay in hotels logistically either. Each of us has set up and adapted our own houses for us. Just the little things that people don’t think about outside of parasports make things a lot easier. “
The youngest member of the team, 20-year-old Allard is an athlete who really benefits from being able to train with the BC4 trio. Dispaltro calls him a “sponge” because he could soak up information and execute so quickly on the court when it comes time to compete.
“The BC4 team mentors me,” Allard told The Toronto Observer, who shocked everyone when he qualified for the Paralympics so early in his career. “I’ve learned a lot over the years. It’s a great opportunity for me to compete with this team and I appreciate that. “
Marco helped me start my career, I just want to thank you for that. I learn a lot from Marco, Iulian and Alison. I always learn. “
The native Bois-des-Filion showed an improvement in every game he played in Tokyo, losing a hard-fought game against eventual gold medalist Hidetaka Sugimura from Japan 6-4 and ending his tournament with a dominant 12-1 win about Diana Tsyplina of the Russian Paralympic Committee.
He also attached great importance to his English, which pays off in the competition for the BC4 team.
“You don’t want the other team to know what you’re thinking or planning, so it’s very important to speak a different language that the other team doesn’t 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 that in our arsenal. “
This close-knit Canadian team is well positioned to compete in future competitions.
31-year-old Levine competed in the Paralympics as number 1 in the world rankings in the BC4 class and number 1 in the world for women, which will be a great advantage for men and women separately for future international single match competitions.
Allard will also compete in the Brazilian regional championships as the number 2 player in the BC2 class and climb the rankings rapidly.
As a former world number one, Dispaltro is very familiar with rankings, with Levine describing Dispaltro as a “number type”.
“Marco told me when he first met me that I was guaranteed to be in the top 10 in the world,” said Levine, who eventually rose to number one in 2020. “And I looked at him like ‘you’ are ‘crazy’. And when I got to the top 10 he was like ‘I told you’. “
The 54-year-old sees many of the same qualities in Allard as in Levine.
“We knew that with (Allard’s) attitude, especially at tournaments, he had only ice water in his veins,” said Dispaltro. “That’s very rare. Most people panic a little when they get on the pitch, but he does the opposite.
“I saw Alison that she had the athletic background, mental resources, and physical tools to do it. When I first saw her, I knew she had this potential. It’s the same with Danik. They have this mentality and the will to be great. “
The new face of the BC2 class for Canada will take every opportunity to learn from their teammates and just work on their craft to get themselves in the best position.
“I just want to work hard,” said Allard of the goals for the years ahead in the sport. “In three years I will be ready for Paris.”