Canadians to watch in Paralympic winter sports in 2015-16

November 25, 2015

This may be hard to believe but by March 2016 the countdown clock reaches two years until the next Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Here are some Canadian athletes on the 2018 Paralympic prowl.

Mac Marcoux with guide BJ Marcoux, para-alpine skiing

Mac & BJ Marcoux

How fitting that one of the new training exercises for the Marcoux brothers - visually impaired Mac Marcoux and his guide BJ Marcoux - is the ladder exercises. For the past two seasons, the Sault Ste. Marie stars have been on a steady climb to the top in para alpine ski racing.

Mac emerged on the scene at age 16 at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games with his guide Robin Fémy (BJ was injured) with gold in giant slalom and two bronze (the downhill and super G). Last season, Mac took the overall World Cup title racing with both his brother and Fémy. The brothers combined forces at the world championships in Panorama, B.C., in March 2015. They won gold in the downhill and silver in the super G.

They are not slowing down for 2015-16, fine-tuning their preparations for more world domination: the pair said recently they did a lot of dryland training to get stronger and more agile. One of their favourite workouts is ladder exercises. These consist of laying a rope ladder on the ground and utilizing it for footwork and coordination.

Brittany Hudak, para-nordic skiing

Brittany Hudak

With Brian McKeever grabbing the para-nordic headlines for the past 10 years, it’s time to share some of the spotlight with emerging star Brittany Hudak of Saskatoon. The 22-year-old arm amputee enjoyed a breakthrough season on the international scene this past winter. She won the overall World Cup cross country title which included her first two international victories, both at the stop in Asahikawa, Japan. She also showed her blossoming talents in biathlon, notching a silver at the season’s last World Cup stop in Norway.

In addition, two of the team’s Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games medallists, Mark Arendz in biathlon and Chris Klebl in sit-skiing, both of Canmore, Alta., are ones to watch in this sport.

Team Canada, sledge hockey

Sledge Hockey

Canada’s national sledge team roster for the 2015-16 season was announced on October 4 and includes 15 players who helped Canada win a silver medal at the 2015 IPC Sledge Hockey World Championship in Buffalo, N.Y. (Arsenault, Block, Bowden, Bridges, Delaney, Dixon, Dorion, Gemmell, Larocque, McGregor, Sholomicki, Sorley, Watson, Westlake, Whitson).  Newcomers include Liam Hickey of St. John’s N.L., also a member of the national wheelchair basketball team.

Canada’s National Sledge Team will be competing in several international tournaments this season, including the 2016 World Sledge Hockey Challenge from Jan. 17-23 at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre in Bridgewater, N.S.

The team will announce its roster for the City of Turin  International Tournament in Turin, Italy set for December 7-12, a few weeks before the start of the event.

Sonja Gaudet, wheelchair curling

Sonja Gaudet

Canada will ice familiar names at the major wheelchair curling tournaments this season including Sonja Gaudet of Vernon, B.C. With three Paralympic gold medals, she is the world’s most decorated wheelchair curler.

Among the tournaments she will attend are the Richmond Open in Richmond, B.C. Nov 18 - 22 and the Cathy Kerr International in Ottawa November 27-29.

Also on the circuit are her Sochi 2014 gold medallist teammates Jim Armstrong of Cambridge, Ont., Ina Forrest of Armstrong, B.C., Dennis Thiessen of Sanford, Man.,  and Mark Ideson of London, Ont.

Alex Massie, para snowboard

Alex Massie

Alex Massie of Barrie, Ont., had an incredible debut season in 2014-15, riding to bronze in the men’s snowboard-cross at the 2015 IPC Snowboard World Championships. He also reached third spot at the prestigious X-Games in 2015. Massie lost his left leg below the knee in a wakeboarding accident in 2011. His top opponents include US Paralympic champion Evan Strong and Finnish world champion Matti Suur-Hamari.

At the age of just 20, Massie is a promising prospect for the coming seasons and in the lead-up to the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.