CNC student Paul Jalbert earned two top-10 finishes at DefiSport recently in Montreal, one of the biggest boccia ball tournaments in Canada for paralympic athletes.
Competing against players from across the country, Jalbert finished seventh in singles and fourth in the team event.
“I’m happy with the way I played,” said Jalbert. “In the team event, I played with people I never played with before. We never even got a chance to practice.”
Jalbert, 47, played a total of 11 matches – five team games and six single games in Montreal April 27 – May 2 – as he continued his quest to earn a spot on the Canadian national team.
“I have to go to these tournaments to get better,” he said. “I want to try and help Team Canada win gold at the Paralympics. It might not be in 2012, but it could be four years after that in 2016.”
Jalbert is no stranger to high-performance athletics. He was ranked as high as No. 6 in the world as a paralympic cyclist and competed in the 1992 Summer Paraympics in Barcelona and the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, Greece. He retired in 2005.
He realized he missed competition and only took up boccia in October. Boccia is a paralympic sport offered at regional, national and international levels. Each side is given six balls (red or blue). After one side has thrown the white jack (target ball), the sides proceed to throw their balls as close as they can to the jack.
“I coached it, I managed it and I refereed it, but I never played boccia,” said Jalbert. “Someone suggested I give it a try and see…now I have to try and improve and get better.”
With only a week of practice under his belt, he stepped on the court at the SportAbility provincials in Surrey Oct. 16-17, 2010 where he won gold in the BC2 category. That put him on the provincial team which competed in Nationals in March in London, Ont. Jalbert helped the BC1/2 team to a bronze medal finish and finished eighth in individual competition.
“I like the challenge of it. Everyone I was competing with and against had all played for 20 years,” said Jalbert. “I play at AimHi for an hour and practice in the gym here at CNC and work on a bunch of drills. I want to practice at least an hour every day.
“The equipment makes it difficult sometimes. I play from my scooter, but it’s too high. I want to find a wheelchair that I can maneuver more.”
Jalbert finds the time to fit the practice in between taking Math 020 at CNC as he works his way toward earning his General Equivalency Diploma (GED). In January, he began working with counsellor George Dunne in the college’s Disability and Support Services, Jalbert discovered which courses he needed to get into to help him achieve his goals.
“We helped Paul find a helpful tutor for math who is an international student,” Dunne said. “We provided him with assistive technologies that will help him with his writing, to put his voice to print and we also liaise with his employer to look at career options.”
It’s paid off for Jalbert.
“It took awhile to figure out how to do math, I was exhausted since I was writing it myself,” he said. “We have figured out a pattern where I will do half of the work the first day, and the other half the next day.”
He credits his instructor Brad Littler for being instrumental in letting him adapt to his learning style.
“I learn by repetition, if I only do it once, it doesn’t stick,” said Jalbert. “I want to get into the administration assistant program because physical jobs are too hard. It may take a few years to complete, but just seeing my marks I know I can learn. It just takes time.”
Jalbert has worked at the CN Centre as a cleaner for 11 years and he’s also married to wife Heather Leigh.
For his boccia tournaments, Jalbert is usually responsible for paying a third of the cost of travelling to tournaments while the B.C. SportAbility Association pays the remainder. Since it’s a small association, funding is hard to get.
“For us to get better, we need to have that funding,” he said. “I could use some support to cover some of my costs, since I pay for them out of my own pocket. I’d like to raise about $2,500 to compete next year.”
Before he went to Montreal, Jalbert bought a new set of Boccia balls for $500.
Now that the season is over, he’ll continue to practice and prepare for the fall season.
“I’m not a person who can sit around and do nothing,” he said. “I was raised to do stuff. I don’t see this as a disability. I think sometimes people underestimate me. I look at this as an opportunity to show what can be done. I might as well do it now while I can. I’m going back to school when a few people doubted me, they’re always doing stuff. I just have to do it my way.”
Disability & Support Services
250-562-2131 ext. 5250