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Pursuit: Lance Cryderman plans comeback in time for Paris

Sudbury paralympian Lance Cryderman took a break from boccia for a few years, but when Team Canada heard he was back, they jumped at the chance to bring him back to the fold and working toward the 2024 Paris Paralympics

Pandemic be damned. Lance Cryderman had already waited more than 15 years before launching his comeback attempt in 2017, looking to climb his way back to the top of the mountain in the sport of Para Boccia. 

A delay of an extra year or two due to COVID-19 certainly wasn’t about to derail his efforts.

By the time March 2020 had arrived, the now 42-year-old Sudbury native had already made his way back to the national scene. This was not surprising to those who watched Cryderman develop from a precocious 12-year-old who took up the sport back in the 1990s, bound and determined not to be limited by his battle with cerebral palsy, to the man he is today.

“In the ’90s, we had the Sudbury Shooting Stars,” Cryderman said. “It was track and field and boccia; everyone was kind of gathering with that one club. That’s where I got my start.”

Truth be told, while boccia certainly appealed to the driven young man from day one, this was also a decision rooted in pragmatics. 

“It’s one of the only sports that I would be able to play because of my physical limitations,” Cryderman said. “Boccia is probably the most inclusive of the para sports. It’s been my go to since day one.”

Quickly crossing into the competitive ranks, Cryderman enjoyed a meteoric ascension in the sport, culminating with his appearance at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, a proud member of the Team Canada delegation.

A wonderfully engaging interview, Cryderman noted that much of his initial success would come from the mindset he could carry into game play, even as he perfected the finer nuances of boccia shotmaking. 

“Most people with cerebral palsy deal with a lot of stiffness, so maintaining some relaxation, keeping yourself calm during competitions is key,” he said. “The mental side of the game is really, really important. Any kind of tension, any kind of nervousness is going to throw our whole game off.”

That said, it’s clear to anyone involved in elite sport in Canada — or across the globe, for that matter — that advances in the area of sport psychology have been many over the course of the past two decades. Throw in some very valuable name recognition and it quickly became apparent that the comeback attempt for Cryderman featured some impressive potential.

“When I came back to the sport (in 2017), the national team caught wind pretty quickly that I was making a comeback and they reached out to me right away,” Cryderman said. “I was able to access resources that we would have never had initially.”

Moreover, the game of boccia that he returned to had undergone some interesting alterations as well. 

“The basics of the game have not changed that much, but the level of competition has really improved,” said the local product who is one of 10 current members of the Boccia Canada national team.

“There have been some significant rules changes,” he said. “When I first played, everyone used competition balls, standard sets for everyone. Now, everyone plays with a custom set; different densities, things like that. That part of the game took a little bit of time to get used to.”

That said, the personalization of the equipment also raised the bar for one and all, allowing competitors to form-fit their equipment, their set of six blue balls, six red balls and a white jack, to their own specific athletic reality.

“There are definitely parameters that need to be met,” Cryderman said. “There are ball tests for every competition — every game, actually. Some athletes might not have as much power, not as much strength to make a longer shot. And we have different balls that have different covers, so you might have a suede ball versus a leather one.”

Having left the sport initially to pursue his academic interest and begin his career, Cryderman returns to boccia at a different stage of life, but still enjoying the critical support infrastructure that allows him to pursue his dream to qualify for the 2024 Summer Paralympics in France.

“My wife, Danielle, has been a huge part of this comeback,” Cryderman said. “Without her, this would not have happened.”

Stepping away from many a sport for a decade and a half would easily quash any elite aspirations for practitioners of that event. Cryderman knows that he is fortunate, boccia not at all in this category.

“I am definitely a better boccia player now,” he said. “Having some maturity, some life experience behind me has helped me grow as a person and made me a better overall athlete. I was pretty young back in the day; 19, 20 years old.”

A participant at the 2023 Montreal World Boccia Cup back in April, Cryderman is now working on improvement in preparation for the Santiago 2023 World Boccia Challenger, a test event for the 2023 Parapan American Games being hosted in Chile in November.

Randy Pascal is a sportswriter in Greater Sudbury. Pursuit is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.


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