Montreal para-athlete Levine secures top boccia ranking

Alison Levine draws on her strength in quickly analyzing play to succeed in her sport. (Canadian Paralympic Committee photo)

Wheelchair athlete Alison Levine of Montreal scooped up two bronze medals at the BISFed Boccia America Regional Championships in Sao Paulo this month.

While she was not at the top of the podium, she did secure the number 1 spot in the world in her category based on points.

Boccia is a Paralympic sport that’s similar to lawn bowling or curling, designed specifically for athletes with muscular dystrophy, like Levine, cerebral palsy and related disabilities. Competition is co-ed in individual and pairs play.

Levine was one of 11 athletes representing Canada at the annual meet, and captained the BC4 competitors, those with the highest level of disability at the games.

A gold medal in Sao Paulo guaranteed a berth at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, and this meet had the most weight this year in terms of world ranking points.

Although Levine failed to win gold in either individual or pairs, she is not out of the running for Tokyo, due to her strong performance.

In the individual competition, she fell just short of earning a direct qualification slot for those prestigious quadrennial games. She captured bronze, beating Euclides Grisales of Colombia after a tough 3-2 semifinal loss to Eliseu dos Santos of Brazil.

“It was a match that could have gone either way, but Santos threw a great last ball that sealed the win,” said Mario Delisle, the head coach of the Canadian team.

Levine, 29, then went on to beat Grisales 7-3, a win that came with a bonus.

“I won my bronze medal game convincingly, leaving him no chance whatsoever,” she said. “I’m extremely happy to announce that with this win I will become the number 1 BC4 in the world.”

That top international ranking gives Levine a good chance of qualifying for Tokyo’s individual BC4 event, if she stays in the number 1 position until the end of 2019, according to Delisle.

Alison Levine, right, and fellow Quebecer Danik Allard show the bronze medals they won in individual boccia at the North American championships in Brazil.

The day after the individual competition, Levine moved on to pairs.

The BC4 pairs faced Colombia in the semifinal, losing 5-1, despite impressive play, said BC4 coach César Nicolai. They then met Mexico in the bronze medal game.

Nicolai praised Levine for motivating the team for the consolation match. “Canada had the game well in hand by the third end. (Levine) called the game with several balls left to throw, taking home the bronze 7-2,” he said.

Levine is now setting her sights on the BISFed 2019 Boccia World Open in Povoa de Varzim, Portugal, which runs from Oct. 28-Nov. 3.

Despite not striking gold, Nicolai said it is still possible for the pairs team to qualify for next year’s Paralympics if it performs well in Portugal.