Boccia brings joy, friendship, and top competition to Joelle Guérette

Canadian Paralympic Committee

December 09, 2022

National team member at her first world championships


MONTREAL – Canadian national boccia team member Joelle Guérette is making her world championships debut this week in Rio de Janeiro.

Guérette, 52, competes in the BC3 class in which players use a ramp and guide the ball with a pointer on their head to aim their shots. She was born with Segawa Syndrome, a rare condition also known as dopamine-responsive dystonia (DRD), a genetic movement disorder.

It was about seven years ago that Guérette made the decision to become a boccia player, a sport that demands intense focus. She has been unstoppable ever since.

“Joelle wanted a sport to get her out of the house and she remembered Bruno Garneau who she went to school with and was a Paralympian in boccia,” said Jonathan Manseau, Guérette’s performance partner for the past five years, also acting as her interpreter.

“At first she joined for the social aspect to meet other people with a similar disability and make friends. The sport gave her a lot of confidence. She was good and recognized for something. That allowed her travel with other people. She knows she can compete with the best and get better.”

Guérette enters the worlds on a high. At the Canadian championships last month in London, Ont., she won the gold medal in the BC3 pairs category with Paralympian Éric Bussière. It was Bussière’s swan song after a 10-year national team career.

Last May in Rio, Guérette advanced to the quarterfinals at a World Cup in Rio (at the same venue as worlds) in individual play.

“These are Joelle’s first world championships,” said Manseau. “The most important thing for her is to get experience but we know based on her last competition she has the capabilities to get past the preliminary round.”

This week Guérette achieved her goal of advancing pas the preliminary round. She was eliminated in the round of 16 on Friday.

As the performance partner, Manseau plays a key role in setting the stage for her Guérette’s shots.

“Joelle is non-verbal so everything she does is with her head,” he said. “I’m the one who controls the ramp for Joelle. She tells me where she wants to place her head then I’ll move the ramp in front of her eye so she can aim. She’ll give me signs left, right to adjust the ramp. Then she chooses the ramp extension, chooses the ball and on her shot and directs the ball with a pointer.”

As much as boccia has changed Guérette’s life, it’s been the same result for Manseau. He previously worked as a manager in a pet store before joining forces with Guérette. He was introduced to the sport by his girlfriend who was also a performance partner.

“Communication was hard at the beginning but with perseverance we were able to understand each other,” he said. “I had no training with working with people with a disability. I’ve always been into sport, I played hockey at the AA level, and I wanted to get back into competitive sport.

“Looking after a person who has a disability definitely changed my life. It improved my confidence and I learned to be more patient.

“A lot of great things changed for the better being with Joelle.”

An eight-member Canadian squad, including the nation’s four Tokyo 2020 Paralympians, is competing at the 2022 World Boccia Championships December 6-13 in Rio de Janeiro. For more information, CLICK HERE.


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