At the 2015 Parapan American Games in Toronto, Team Canada wheelchair rugby co-captain Trevor Hirschfield experienced two firsts in his 10-year national team career. The Canadian flag flew the highest at a medal ceremony and he heard his national anthem at an international event.
“That was pretty special for me,” said Hirschfield, Canada’s co-captain from Vancouver, at the recent Canadian Paralympic Committee media summit in Toronto. “We put in all these hours at the gym, spent so much time together and played our hearts out. Now we have to continue to push ourselves to improve and work towards our end goal: victory at the Paralympic Games.”
Canada won the gold medal on its home court at the Parapan Ams with a thrilling 57-54 victory over the U.S. in the final. That performance put Canada in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. Just a few weeks later, Canada was golden once again at an international tournament in Britain. That propelled Canada to number one in the world rankings.
“Now we have the target on our backs,” said Hirschfield, 32, who also got married in 2015. “It means we are no longer flying under the radar. If we want to stay on top of the mountain we better be willing to fight for it.”
Fight number-one is this weekend in Rio. The International Wheelchair Rugby Championships, a test event for the Paralympic Games, is set for this Friday to Sunday at the Carioca Arena 1. The four countries entered are Australia and Canada – the gold and silver medallists at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London – along with host Brazil and Britain.
The Canadians face Brazil and Australia on Friday, Britain and Brazil on Saturday and Britain and Australia on Sunday.
Para-alpine World Cup
Alana Ramsay of Calgary won the silver medal in the women’s giant slalom to open the para-alpine World Cup final on Wednesday in Aspen Colorado. Marie Bochet of France posted a decisive victory while Ramsay had the second fastest times on both her runs.
Ramsay won two bronze in the European portion of the World Cup earlier this year, her first two career international medals.
In the men’s sitting GS, Kurt Oatway of Calgary came within 0.23 seconds of the podium finishing fourth. Oatway posted his first two career World Cup victories in Europe earlier this season.
There is another GS Thursday and a slalom on Friday. The speed events are March 1-4 with two downhills and two super Gs.
First victory for Canada at world wheelchair curling championships
In Lucerne, Switzerland, Canada hopes it can rally for a berth in the playoff round after registering its first victory Wednesday at the world wheelchair curling championships. The Canadians, who opened the tournament with four straight losses, scored four times in the seventh end to defeat Slovakia 9-3.
After a sixth place finish last season, the reigning Paralympic champion Canadians returned this year with its Sochi squad comprised of skip Jim Armstrong of Cambridge, Ont., Ina Forrest from Armstrong, B.C., Dennis Thiessen of Sanford, Man., Mark Ideson of London, Ont., and Sonja Gaudet of Vernon, B.C.
"It’s so nice to get that monkey off our back,” Armstrong told the World Curling Federation website after the victory. “We’re not used to losing, we’ve been struggling, there’s no question about that. What we’re seeing is that we’ve got the fortitude to hang in there and grind. I wouldn’t count us out yet."
The Canadians have four matches remaining in round robin play. They face winless Finland on Thursday, Russia and Norway on Friday and Germany on Saturday. Norway and Switzerland entered Thursday’s play both undefeated at 5-0.
Canadian para-nordic skiers graze podium at World Cup
Canada’s para-nordic squad teamed up for a fourth-place finish at the IPC World Cup relay race in Finsterau, Germany on Tuesday.
Chris Klebl of Canmore, Alta., rookie Emily Weekes of North Vancouver, Brittany Hudak of Prince Albert, Sask., and anchor Mark Arendz, of Hartsville, P.E.I., skied just shy of the podium clocking a time of 32:28.1 in the 4x2.5 kilometre mixed relay.
“Today was a much better day for our team,” Arendz, a two-time Paralympic medallist, told Cross Country Canada. “We get few opportunities to race together so it was great to race well. Our team is improving regularly since last year’s world championships so it is good to be heading in the right direction.”
Russia’s two four-person teams grabbed the top-two spots on the podium. Ukraine edged the Canadians out for the bronze medal.