The Défi Sportif AlterGo is now well underway, and Day 1 featured the mini-marathon, para hockey, and boccia.

In fact, the Maurice-Richard Arena was the site of not one, but two boccia competitions: that of the school component and the Open Nationals. That, combined with the presence of our athletic ambassador Iulian Ciobanu, provided a golden opportunity for up-and-coming boccia players to rub shoulders with the sport’s elite athletes.


Inspiring the next generation

One of the goals of the Défi Sportif AlterGo is to give young athletes with functional limitations opportunities to meet athletes from the provincial and national teams. The founder of the event, Monique Lefebvre, explained the importance of those types of encounters on Radio-Canada, just before the 41st Défi began (in French).

“The idea was to give developing athletes a chance to be around elite athletes. Because when you’re a high-level athlete in a sport, in a wheelchair, for example, you’re always proud to see young people who are just starting out. And when you’re young, you’re always proud to see your idols. But when you’re a young person with a limitation, there aren’t as many role models for you to look up to. The Défi allows those two communities to meet each other and strengthen each other.”

That pride is apparent in our athletic ambassador Iulian Ciobanu, two-time gold medallist at the 40th Défi Sportif AlterGo, who will be taking part in the Montréal 2024 World Boccia Cup and the Paralympic Games in Paris this summer.


From athlete to mentor

Ciobanu did not take up boccia as a child. In fact, he was 30 years old when he began to play, so he is particularly interested in witnessing burgeoning careers in the sport. “It took about 3 or 4 years before my results began to be . . . more or less stable, let’s say. For me to get good results,” said Ciobanu of his own background, before turning to the topic of the potential and good fortune of today’s young athletes. “They’ll have to chance to play in school, to move up to the national level. That’s the opportunity they’ll have. And because that wasn’t my experience, it’s interesting for me to see them play at the school level, with adaptive equipment and modified rules. The ramps are different, and the games are only two ends long.”

For Ciobanu, the role of athletic ambassador brings with it a sense of responsibility. “It’s a great feeling of accomplishment and a big responsibility. Yesterday, I was simply a boccia player. Now I’m an ambassador, a mentor, and a role model for players who are just starting out. I’m part of a movement, and that makes me very proud.”


A strong future

In the school component of the boccia competition, there were 22 athletes from 6 schools. Those up-and-coming athletes had the chance to rub shoulders with Ciobanu during their tournament.

The athletic ambassador did a fantastic job in his role of mentor. He attended and even provided analyses of some of the school matches, including those of Anne-Carla Augustin, the promising young boccia player who won the gold medal.

All of that, combined with the overall Défi Sportif AlterGo experience, made for a great day for the young athletes, and gave them plenty to dream about. “I love [the Défi Sportif AlterGo], it’s really great. My dream is to become a famous sports person and boccia player and to show people that even though we have disabilities, we’re still able to do this,” said Augustin.


Iulian in action

Throughout the Défi Sportif AlterGo, Iulian Ciobanu will defend his titles at the Maurice-Richard Arena. First, he will take part in the men’s BC4 individual event from April 30 to May 3. Then he will compete in the pairs BC4 event with his teammate Alison Levine, on May 4 and 5.

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