#ParaTough! Alison Levine is living the dream as a full-time athlete
This first appeared in the October 2014 Action newsletter from the Québec region.
An adaptive sport and leisure information day was held in Montréal on April 5, 2014. It was organized by Muscular Dystrophy Canada, in partnership with the Rehabilitation Centre Lucie-Bruneau, Marie-Enfant Rehabilitation Centre of the CHU Ste-Justine and Parasport Quebec. A hundred people came to lectures on topics such as adaptive travel, leisure, and work. They also had access to exhibitors and were able to participate in different sports (dance, boccia, powerchair soccer).
Alison Levine was also on hand to demonstrate her skills in boccia. Alison is affected by idiopathic muscular dystrophy. She just finished competing in boccia with Team Canada at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto. Alison had a great tournament – she won a silver medal in Boccia Pairs, but unfortunately lost in the bronze medal match. She is now ranked as the #1 female player in the world, and the #9 player overall!
Alison was diagnosed at the age of 12 after having difficulty walking. Now, at 24 it affects her whole body – even her breathing. She does not have a power ventilator at the moment, but one day she may need one. Alison uses a manual wheelchair at home and a motorized wheelchair when outside, and is accompanied by her faithful guide dog.
Alison graduated last year with a diploma in special education, but currently she is a full-time athlete!
She has a long history of sport and recreation. At 16 she enrolled at the therapeutic horseback riding. Coaches noticed how well Alison was performing and suggested that she join the competition circuit. She worked hard as she had to use crutches and braces. It became too dangerous of her to sit on a horse when Alison began to have problems keeping her balance. That’s when she discovered wheelchair basketball.
In 2008, Alison became a part of the wheelchair basketball program and she played recreationally for a year. She was then recruited into the AA team for competition. Unfortunately, after two years, the evolution of her disorder made it too difficult to continue playing wheelchair basketball. Alison then changed over to the wheelchair rugby scene.
Beginning in 2010, Alison served on various wheelchair rugby teams, including the teams for Montréal and Québec. Rugby is by far her favorite sport, which made giving it up very difficult due to the progression of her disorder.
Alison then switched to boccia as it was less physically demanding than rugby. Alison is a member of the Québec provincial team, and has competed in many tournaments including the Boccia World Open International Tournament in Portugal! For her, boccia is not just a recreational sport; it is a full time job. Boccia gives Alison many joys and challenges, and also allows her to travel the world for competition.
“This is the sport that saved me. Having a serious diagnosis, being affected by degeneration… it is difficult to find meaning in life, to continue, to leave the house. Having something I am passionate about allowed me to say that life is not over, it will just be different than expected,” says Alison.
Adaptive sports are becoming more and more prevalent – different sports and teams are always looking for new recruits whether recreational or competitive. “I am very proud to say that I represent my country. I’m not a person with a disability playing adapted sports, I am an athlete.”
To find the associations that promote adaptable sport in your area, please contact your local services person by clicking here.