The 12th Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship gets underway Monday, April 27 at Club de curling Boucherville in Boucherville, Que. It’s the second year in a row that the city and club have hosted the event.
Once again, the championship will be organized and operated by Défi sportif AlterGo, a Quebec-based organization focused on raising awareness of sports for athletes with a disability.
Ten teams, representing nine provinces plus Northern Ontario, will play a round robin from April 27 to Friday, May 1, followed by the Page playoff games (1 vs 2, 3 vs 4) on Saturday. The semifinal (loser of 1-2 vs winner of 3-4) goes Sunday, May 3, at 10 a.m., with the championship final scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET.
Last year, Manitoba won its second Canadian championship when skip Dennis Thiessen and his team from Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club (third Mark Wherrett, second Jamie Anseeuw, lead Melissa Lecuyer and coach Tom Wherrett) won all four of their playoff games, culminating with a victory over defending champion Benoît Lessard of Quebec, 8-5 in the gold-medal final.
It capped a remarkable year for Thiessen, who also won a gold medal playing second for Team Canada (skip Jim Armstrong) at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Thiessen also played third on the 2011 Canadian champion team skipped by Chris Sobkowicz.
Both Thiessen and Lessard are back to renew rivalries this year. Also competing are Saskatchewan skip Darwin Bender and his 2012 Canadian Wheelchair championship team and British Columbia skip Gerry Austgarden, a two-time Canadian champ, his third Darryl Neighbour, also a two-time winner and second Frank La Bounty, a three-time winner.
In addition, Austgarden won Paralympic gold in 2006 while playing third for Canada’s Chris Daw while Neighbour won a gold medal in 2010, when playing third for Canada’s Jim Armstrong.
Rounding out the field are Alberta (skip Don Kuchelyma), New Brunswick (Michael Fitzgerald), Newfoundland and Labrador (Joanne MacDonald), Northern Ontario (Wayne Ficek), Nova Scotia (Trendal Hubley-Bolivar) and Ontario (Chris Rees).
The Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship began in 2004 and has previously been won by Team Canada (skip Chris Daw) in 2004, 2005 and 2006 and British Columbia in 2007 (skip Darryl Neighbour), 2008 and 2009 (skip Jim Armstrong) and 2010 (skip Gary Cormack).