Dispaltro, Levine take on new challenges at Toronto 2015

The Canadian BC4 boccia players will face tough competition from Team Brazil. 06 Aug 2015
Two boccia player sit in the wheelchairs with their medals around their neck.

Marco Dispaltro (left) and Josh Vander Vies react after winning bronze in the boccia mixed pairs BC4 event at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

ⒸGetty Images
By Caroline Davis | For the IPC

“I’ve never had this calibre of excitement. I’m ready to go out there and show the world what boccia is all about.”

Canada’s No. 1 BC4 ranked Marco Dispaltro is no stranger to the international stage, and he will be looked up to when the 10-member boccia squad takes the floor at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games, which begins Friday (7 August).

Joining him to help Team Canada repeat that dominance is rising star Alison Levine. Although ranked No. 26 in the BC4, Levine has shown promise this season, recently taking home two silvers from the World Open in Poznan, Poland.

“The Parapan Am Games are my first multi-sport event,” Levine said. “I’ve never had this calibre of excitement. I’m ready to go out there and show the world what boccia is all about.”

Levine understands the unknowns that await but has taken steps to help her perform her best.

“It’s almost impossible to be good at this sport straight away,” Levine said. “It can be frustrating, and hard to see what lies ahead, in the future. So, it’s important to have as much fun as possible.”

“Ninety-eight percent of the time, boccia is played ‘between both ears,’” Levine added. “I’ve started seeing a sports psychologist, this year, so I can be mentally at my best. I need to play to my own strengths, not to others’ weaknesses.”

Canada will have to make up ground in the BC4 with the retirement of Josh Vander Vies, who captured the individual bronze medal in Guadalajara 2011. Their toughest competition will no doubt be from Brazil, which leads the world rankings in the BC4 pairs category; Canada sits at No. 5.

But it is a match up Dispaltro is looking forward to.

“I want to play the Brazilians as many times as possible,” he said. It is exciting.”

Dispaltro is the one to beat in the individual BC4 category, but he could meet his match with Brazilian Eliseu Dos Santos.

Santos – ranked No. 4 in the BC4 – holds a career that spans two successful Paralympic Games and will be out to get gold. Fellow Brazilian and four-time Paralympic champion Dirceu Pinto is also expected to give Dispaltro a fight, alongside world No. 17 Marcello Santos.

But like Levine, Toronto 2015 may field more rising stars in the sport.

“Euclides [Grisales Diaz] of Colombia has improved incredibly,” Dispaltro said. “The Mexicans and Bermudans always surprise us.

“There are so many great players, at the moment, especially in the Asian countries; and there are always surprises, coming through. I need to be on top, to retain my current ranking.”