Marco Dispaltro in Florida to Step Up His Training

27 Feb 2012
Marco Dispaltro will be heading to London 2012 as a member of Canada's Boccia team.

Marco Dispaltro, London 2012 Paralympic bronze medallist and world No. 1

ⒸCanadian Paralympic Committee and Matthew Murnaghan

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the world that throws as many balls as I do, and if they do, good for them!”

Canada’s Marco Dispaltro has not yet been playing Boccia for two years, but already he is tipped to reach the podium at London 2012.

To up the ante in his training Dispaltro has headed south to Florida for the winter in search of able-bodied players, who he can train with.

“I love it when they beat me – it doesn’t happen very often, but when they do, that means they played really well and it pushes me to become better because if you win all the time, it’s human nature to become complacent,” said the 44-year-old Canadian, who has muscular dystrophy and competes in the BC4 Boccia class.

Dispaltro says he has played over 1,000 games so far, including with able-bodied players, and won around 92 per cent. Unsurprisingly, competitiveness courses through his veins.

“I’m going to the Paralympics not for the experience, but for the challenge of competing and of winning.”

Instant success

Dispaltro only started playing Boccia in May 2010. At his first international tournament, the 2011 CPISRA Boccia World Cup, no one had even heard of him, but he came second.

“I wasn’t that surprised with my results because back home in Canada, I had very good results in the different competitions and I knew that, with the attitude I was bringing to Boccia, players better beware,” said Dispaltro, who credits much of his mental toughness to his sporting background: he used to play tennis and Wheelchair Rugby as well as coaching in the latter sport.

The transition from Wheelchair Rugby to Boccia was not a totally seamless one, however.

“At the beginning, my experience of Wheelchair Rugby did affect my game plan because I was very aggressive, but in Boccia you need to be able to reflect a lot and be patient and that was the biggest adjustment for me,” he said.

His approach to learning Boccia has been meticulous. When he first started training he studied video footage of Brazil’s Paralympic gold medallist Dirceu Pinto frame by frame.

“I looked at how he threw the ball and the different strategies that he employed. For the first few weeks I started to play the sport, I stood in front of the mirror practicing my swing, mimicking basically what Pinto was doing and then of course when you get more and more familiar with the sport, you develop your own little quirks,” he said.

Intensive training

Dispaltro’s condition is a slow progressing degenerative condition, which has remained fairly stable over the last 20 months – something he credits mainly to his stretching routine before and after Boccia games.

“Most of us, we can’t do weights and there’s not many things we can do because it’s counterproductive for our bodies, but stretching for me is one of the keys to be physically prepared. If you’re physically and mentally prepared, what more can you ask for?” he said.

As one of the few BC4 players who does not yet use a power chair, Dispaltro is determined to maintain his current physical abilities for as long as possible.

“It’s not that I can push very fast, but just that little bit keeps your shoulders moving and your abdominal muscles working. I’m making sure that all the muscles I have, I’m keeping for as long as possible by being active,” he said

Dispaltro is preparing himself intensively for London 2012, throwing anywhere between 1,000 and 2,500 balls each week.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the world that throws as many balls as I do, and if they do, good for them!”

So far his training has paid off. Dispaltro is currently ranked world number four. At the 2011 Parapan American Games, he beat the world number one, Brazil’s Dos Santos Eliseu.

“I’m sure he’s going to be stewing over that loss. If we face each other again, I’m sure he’ll have a different game plan against me and be a very tough foe,” he said.

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