Canada’s nine-strong team which includes Paul Gauthier, from Vancouver, who is looking to regain the Paralympic gold he won in 2004, and Adam Dukovich, who scooped gold at the 2011 ParaPanamerican Games, is holding its training at Ponds Forge International Sports Centre to prepare for the 2012 Games.
Boccia is played on a rectangular court and, similar to boules, athletes aim to land balls close to a target. It is specially designed for athletes with a severe degree of physical disability.
Mario Delisle, head coach of the Canadian Boccia team, said: “Upon invitation from the city I visited Sheffield last year when I was in England with the Canadian Paralympic Committee.
“After visiting Ponds Forge and the hotel I knew that it would be a good place for my team to be before going to the big show.”
Ponds Forge has also recently welcomed the Vietnamese Paralympic swimming team, who are using the venue’s Olympic-sized pool for their pre-Games training before heading to London to compete at the Aquatics Centre.
He is a seasoned competitor but Brock Richardson is still the youngest player on the Canadian boccia team that is competing at the London Paralympics, which begin Wednesday.Just 21 years old Richardson competed four years ago on the Canadian team at the Beijing Paralympics. He has also been to three World Cups, a World Championship and the 2011 Parapan American Games.And while many international boccia players can be much older, Richardson has shown that at a young age he belongs with the best. In 2008 in Beijing he finished in the top half of the individual competition, finishing 10th, in just his second international tournament, while the Canadian team was ninth.Last year he had his best international tournament ever reaching the quarterfinals and finishing fifth individually at the Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. There is no doubt that Richardson feels he and the team are ready for London.“I have confidence in my team,” he said. “I know if I play the way I can, I can win a medal.”
In a recent comment on athletesfirst.ca I wrote that we Paralympians “wrestle with the thought of losing at every training session. Our goal is to perform at an optimum level so that we can win. When we lose though, we lose. We need to work harder next time and although a hug from our loved ones might soften the blow, it does not equal success.”
Over the last days, I poured my maximum effort onto Portuguese boccia courts and came up short. I had some great performances, solid strategies a good mental game and even a reasonable level of consistency. Against the top players in Europe and the Americas, that was not enough. In the game of millimetres that we play, every millimetre counts.
The 2012 Masters began with doubles play, where my partner Marco Dispaltro and I were in a pool with Slovakia and Brazil. In the first game, we started strong, bringing the score to an even 2-2 after 3 of the 4 ends. In the last end, we were focused and ready to surge ahead and take the win. Adrenaline pumping, we missed a few key shots and made, what would end up, a fatal strategic error – attempting a more complicated shot, that would have resulted in the win and a completely blocked jack, instead of a simpler shot that could have just as easily won us the match. The complicated shot did not pan out, and we lost 2 – 5.
We then faced Brazil – two very solid players.