Canada’s wheelchair curlers are the comeback kids


They’re playing with fire and they know it. But so far, Canada’s wheelchair curlers have yet to be burned.

Three times in their first seven games at the Paralympics in South Korea, the Canadians have been down multiple points only to stage a somewhat improbable comeback.

Canada trailed 4-0 to Sweden in its second game and won 8-4. Then the team was down 5-1 to China earlier today and won 8-5. 

The Canadians’ most dramatic comeback came in their next game, against the United States on Tuesday night at the Gangneung Curling Venue. After being down 3-0 early, Canada was able to battle back to force an extra end. 

With the score tied 5-5, and without the hammer in the extra end, Marie Wright, Dennis Thiessen, Ina Forrest and skip Mark Ideson played a nearly perfect eight rocks to steal the victory from the Americans.

“We just keep on digging and never give up. We’ve done enough to know to never give up,” Wright said, adding that the team will try and change its strategy. Getting a much better start is the focus now. 

“We are playing with fire. We don’t really like being the comeback kids, so maybe next time we’ll try and get an early lead,” Wright said.

After two losses Monday, Canada came into competition on Tuesday with a 3-2 record. The team needed two victories today and found a way to get them. Now Canada is all alone in third place at 5-2 — behind China and Korea, who both have one loss each.

“We knew we weren’t going to run the table when we got here. It’s nice to bounce back with two wins today,” Ideson said. 

Turning point

With the score 3-2 in the fifth end against the U.S., and Canada seemingly in trouble, Ideson made a spectacular shot.

The skip was able to slip his red rock through a small port out front of the rings to remove the American shot rock. By getting through the small hole between two guards to hit and stick his stone, he set up a Canadian steal to tie the game.

In what might be the shot of the Paralympics, Canadian skip Mark Ideson just barely snuck his rock past a guard to make the takeout. It led to a steal that evened their match against the USA. 1:07

“I didn’t throw it that great. It was a little wide. I just got lucky but it did give us a bit of a boost,” he said. 

For Ideson, it was a confidence booster after he struggled yesterday. 

“I can’t believe this would be such an emotional roller coaster. I had no idea coming into this there would be so many ups and downs,” Ideson said. 

He can’t put his finger on why the team keeps falling behind early, only to claw back and find ways to win — but he isn’t enjoying the trend all that much.

“I’d like to be the get-ahead-early-and-stay-ahead kids rather than the comeback kids,” he said. 

Canada has four games remaining in the round-robin portion of the tournament. Wednesday in Pyeongchang they’ll face the Neutral Paralympic Athletes and Slovakia. Both teams are behind them in the standings. They’ll finish against Germany and Finland. 

“I think we’re where we want to be,” Ideson said. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves, though. It’s kind of redundant but we have to stick to the game plan.”

The top four teams advance to the playoffs, with the semifinals set for Friday afternoon in South Korea. The bronze- and gold-medal games will be held on Saturday.