Photo courtesy of Don Lane
The 2011 Boccia Blast in London, Ontario came to a close on Sunday, as the best boccia players in Canada battled for the prestigious title. I am currently ranked number 19 in the world, and this was an important tune up event before the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico next month. Due to a disappointing loss to world number 31 Caroline Vietnicks, Saturday, 2 – 4, I needed to beat world number 8 and 2011 Boccia World Cup silver medalist, Marco Dispaltro, for a chance at Boccia Blast silver – gold was out of reach for me because of the round robin point spread.
Dispaltro played me at 8 metres, where we clashed, shot for shot until the final ball of the end. I was able to land a solid ricochet that budged my blue ball millimetres closer than his red, to score the first point of the game. In the second end, I played a solid short game at 3.5 metres, ending up with three more points, leading 4 – 0 going into the third of four ends.
With the jack (white target ball) back to Dispaltro, he played at 5 metres and landed a solid first ball. Since I was leading, I decided to play defense, and set up an impressive wall of balls. It was not impressive enough, as he was able to place three of his balls past my defense, bringing the score to 4 – 3 entering the fourth end.
I placed the jack at 3.5 metres again and had a well but not perfectly placed first ball. Dispaltro played the millimetre game, placing balls and pushing and lobbing them up. We went back and forth, with the jack almost out of the court. If the jack is knocked out, it goes to the centre “X” and all the balls stay where they are placed. With one red ball scoring for the tie, I had two blue balls left. I placed one near the “X,” but at a disappointing distance. With my final ball, I landed a perfect shot right on the jack – scoring. Dispaltro had three balls remaining. He tried a lob and missed. He tried a second lob and got a piece of the ball cluster, but not enough – blue was still scoring. With his final lob, he budged the group of balls enough for his red ball to score.
When we went up to see the field of play and settle the score with the referee, I saw that Dispaltro’s red ball appeared to be right on the line, meaning it was out of play, and I would win the match. I called over Mike Clark, the head referee for an official measurement, and after around 10 minutes of gently poking and prodding the ball in the direction of the court with a piece of paper, to verify if the bottom part of it was touching the line, it was declared in.
This tied the score and brought us to an overtime end. The jack is placed on the “X” at 5 metres, and after some back and forth, Dispaltro scored the tie-breaking point for the win – leaving me with bronze this time. A close win for him, and solid performance from me bodes well for our chances in Guadalajara individual play, along with our teammate Vietnicks.
We leave in a few weeks, and are ready to challenge hard for those spots on the podium.