When Éric Bussière discovered boccia in 2011, it soon became a life-changing event. He dedicated himself to the sport and made it his goal to compete at the Paralympic Games.
“I was searching for something to do with my life, and when I found boccia, it changed my life totally. I found something to do with my life,” said Bussière, who has muscular dystrophy.
Bussière is one of the beneficiaries of ImagiNation funding on the boccia team, which is led by head coach Mario Deslisle. Boccia provides people with a significant disability the opportunity to play a sport. In the over two decades Delisle has been involved, boccia has grown vastly and now more than 20 athletes are in the NextGen and national program.
ImagiNation has presented the athletes access to more coaching and more events, helped develop an iPad app which will use data to analyze their own performances and those of their opponents, and provided the extremely valuable opportunity to bring athletes from around the country together at training camps.
“The athletes have told me they get the most out of the quality of the coaching, and also the people who are around us here, different specialists like sports psychologists, nutritionists, and physiotherapists,” said Deslisle about the camps, held at the Institut national du sport du Québec in Montreal.
“And most important is them being together with the other athletes. They can evaluate where they are, compare themselves, establish goals, and just the synergy of being together in one place has the most impact.”
The camps also immensely help the athletes when they return home, providing tools for their sport assistants to coach in their local environments. Boccia players are always supported on the field of play by a performance partner, who are critical to the success of the athletes. Bussière’s is his mother Francine.
This past season funding allowed Bussière to compete at an additional tournament, which furthers his development and prepares him better for future events. He won two medals at the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games and reached his Paralympic dream by competing at Rio 2016. Now 32 years old, he has advanced from a NextGen athlete to a contender. His immediate goals now are to reach Top 10 in the world – and coach Delisle says he thinks he can be Top 5 – ahead of the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
“I have more support, more coaching, and we don’t have the stress to think of money,” said Bussière. “We can focus on the performance and we can improve ourselves.”
The Paralympic Foundation of Canada is celebrating the first year of the ImagiNation campaign today, which aims to raise $6 million over four years and leverage a $4 million matching commitment from the Government of Canada for an unprecedented $10 million investment in Canadian athletes with a disability.
For more information, please visit Paralympic.ca/imagination.