One of my most enjoyable experiences so far at the London Paralympics was meeting and interviewing the Canadian bronze medal-winning boccia team of Josh Vander Vies and Marco Dispaltro. These men are the best possible ambassadors for their sport – or any sport. They are articulate, bilingual and ooze self awareness.
Boccia is somewhat similar to lawn bowling, but is played indoors instead of outside. The aim of the game is to get your team’s balls closer to the white ball (jack ball) than you opponents’. Like Curling, only one team can score per end.
Vander Vies, a Sarnia, Ont., native who I first met when he was 11 years old, is now a 27-year-old studying law at the University of British Columbia. He already holds an honours double degree in political Science and French from the University of Western Ontario. He is an athlete representative for both the International Boccia Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee. And in his spare time he has become one of the top 20 boccia players in the world.
His partner, the 45-year-old Dispaltro, has a rich sporting heritage. The St-Jerome, Que., native comes from a wheelchair rugby background. In fact, he played the game for many years and then acted as the sport’s High Performance Director in Canada. Following that he was hired as head coach of the Swedish wheelchair rugby team, which he ran very successfully until 2008. He played boccia for the first time in 2010, and is obviously a natural. But he takes nothing for granted, training religiously in pursuit of perfection.