By: Keegan Matheson
Canadian Paralympic Media Consortium
Sept. 16, 2016 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Canadian boccia player Alison Levine has come a long way in just three and a half years.
Entering the 2016 Rio Paralympics ranked 15th in the world in individual mixed BC4 boccia, the Montreal, Que. native powered her way to the quarter-finals on Thursday morning. Driven by the mental focus that has helped her game soar, Levine picked out one voice from the raucous crowd.
“I hear my mom,” Levine said, smiling after a hard-fought 3-2 loss to Thailand’s Pornchuk Larpyen. “I was super hyper focused. An elephant could have walked across the court, but I heard my mom.”
Levine’s mother, Roberta Fried-Levine, stood in the athlete area overlooking her daughter’s game and supported her with passion, a large Canadian flag in her hands from start to finish.
“I couldn’t be prouder, but I don’t think that proud does it justice,” she said after the game. “It is just phenomenal to see her succeed for her work and what she’s done for herself. Medalling or not isn’t what I mean by success. She works so hard at everything, from her everyday life to her sport.”
“I have this incredible honour and privilege and vantage point to basically see her do her thing,” Fried-Levine added, “and that’s incredible.”
Marco Dispaltro, Levine’s teammate in mixed pairs competition, was the first to tell his friend and teammate “AliCat” that she’d finished fifth overall in the final rankings.
“I can’t be anything but proud,” Levine said. Training alongside Dispaltro, she has dedicated a great deal of time to improving her mental game which accounts for so much in boccia. Levine believes that she never would have been able to reach this level at the Paralympics without that work, and also credited her Team Next mentor Stephanie Dixon, a 19-time Paralympic medalist in swimming, who has become one of her biggest champions.
Levine has fast-tracked to the upper tier of BC4 boccia through an unwavering determination and in the process, her mother says that she’s found much more than just sport and competition.
“It’s given her a whole community of people who understand what it means when you succeed in the public eye and at a level people understand such as a medal, or succeed without that medal as well,” she said. “The acceptance and the support and everything that she’s found are just helping to carry her forward.”
As a newcomer to boccia, Levine knows that a medal is not the only measure of success at these Games.
“If the disappointment of not winning a medal kicks in I’ve just got to remind myself, ‘Look, three and a half years, quarter-finals at the Paralympics, incredible. Incredible’.”