MONTREAL – The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics may be a year late but Danik Allard is three years early on his objective to compete at the Games.
The 20-year-old national boccia team player’s long-term strategy was geared towards 2024 but strong performances just before COVID-19 hit catapulted him onto an experienced team. Allard was one of four athletes named last week to the Canadian boccia team for the Tokyo Games, and he is the lone Paralympic newcomer.
“I wasn’t expecting to be named to the team,” said Allard. ‘’But I had a great support group behind me. The coaches, my teammates, and our sports group that specialized in different areas – they were there for me. It was tough for the team after COVID hit but they found a way to make it work for us so we could keep training.”
Boccia national team coach César Nicolai isn’t concerned about Allard’s inexperience in international play.
‘’Danik has that ability to put everything else aside and focus on the game,’’ said Nicolai. ‘’For someone his age that is a great quality. That aspect really impressed us in his two international appearances in 2019.”
Allard won the bronze medal at the America Regional Championships in Brazil and was fourth at the World Open stop in Montreal in 2019. He is currently ranked 14th in the world out of 159 players in the BC2 category.
While he is still young, Nicolai doesn’t consider Allard an overnight success.
‘’He’s gone through the provincial and national system for the last 10 years,’’ he said. ‘’He’s had the time, the training, and the competitions to develop year after year. The competition programming is very strong in Quebec, he is a Jeux du Quebec champion and has participated at the Défi sportif which is held every year.”
With Tokyo being his first major Games experience, Allard is not putting too much pressure on himself.
‘’I just want to capitalize on this opportunity to get some valuable experience,’’ said Allard, who is also guided by national and provincial coach Simon Larouche. ‘’I want to have fun, have great memories. I’ll try and compete like it’s just another tournament, even though it’s a big event.’’
Nicolai says Allard has already mastered the essence of the sport.
‘’He is very consistent and that is the key to success in boccia,’’ he said. ‘’That takes years of practice to achieve.”
Allard competes in the BC2 classification. He is joined on Canada’s Tokyo team by three BC4 athletes – Alison Levine, Iulian
Ciobanu and Marco Dispaltro. All three have Paralympic Games experience.
‘’Iulian, Marco and Alison are like deans to me,’’ Allard said. ‘’They bring a lot of experience and savoir-faire; they play with a lot of confidence and not too much stress. I learn a lot from them.’’
Before becoming a boccia player at age 12, Allard was involved in swimming and Para ice hockey. Once he discovered boccia though, he never looked back.
‘’I loved the strategic aspect of the game,” he said. ‘’It brought me all I could ask for in a sport. It’s my parents who discovered the sport on the web. They really encouraged me to try it and I fell in love with it.”
And now in just over two months, it will be Canadians who discover Allard at the Paralympic Games.