For Canada’s winter sport Paralympians, the 2015-16 season is when they reach the halfway point between two Paralympic Games, Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018. Results this season will be important measuring sticks on where they stand against the worlds’ best two years out from the Paralympic Winter Games.
Here’s what awaits our winter warriors this season:
The six-stop IPC World Cup circuit, with Canada led by the world champion Marcoux brothers – Mac and his guide BJ-, takes on added importance this season with no world championships on the schedule. The World Cup season gets underway January 15-17, 2016 in Abtenau, Austria with following stops in Tarvisio, Italy, St. Moritz, Switzerland, Tignes, France and the last two stops in Colorado, including the finale February 28-March 2 in Aspen, Colorado. The national championships conclude the season March 25-27 in Whistler, B.C.
There is a three-stop World Cup para-nordic season in cross country skiing and biathlon: December 2-9 in Tyumen, Russia; February 21-28 in Finsterau, Germany and March 15-20 in Vuokatti, Finland. The Canadian Championships cap the season March 19-26 in Whitehorse, Yukon. Last season Brian McKeever and his guide Erik Carleton took the world crown in the 20 kilometre. Canada’s Brittany Hudak enters the season as the defending overall World Cup cross country champion while Chris Klebl was third on the men’s side. Canadians will also race in the new marathon events that have been added to the World Cup program.
Canada hosts a para snowboard World Cup event February 10-13 at Big White, B.C. It is one of six stops on the circuit. The season gets underway November 19-20 at the indoor venue in Landgraaf, the Netherlands with the other stops February 5-6 in Aspen, Colorado March 5-6 in La Molina, Spain, March 9-12 at Les Angles, France and March 15-18 in La Trentiono, Italy. The Canadian championships are March 25-26 at Ski Chantecler in Ste-Adèle, Que. Canada’s Alex Massie had an incredible debut season in 2014-15, riding to bronze in the men’s snowboard cross at the world championships in La Molina. There will be more opportunities for medals with the addition of the giant slalom this season.
Canada heads into the 2015-16 season still ranked No. 1 in the world, despite a sixth-place finish at the world championships last winter in Finland. The result ended an amazing run for Canada who had triumphed at every world championships and Paralympic Games since 2009. This year’s world championships are February 21-28 in Lucerne, Switzerland. All of Canada’s best wheelchair curling players will gather for the national championships April 4-10 in Regina, Sask.
Canada’s sledge hockey roster is set for 2015-16, with the team featuring solid veterans such as Billy Bridges and Greg Westlake, and newcomers including 17-year-old national wheelchair basketball team player Liam Hickey. Calgary hosted a national development camp in August and a national team selection camp September 27 to October 4. The national team training camp ended October 31 in Etobicoke, Ont. This year’s big event is the ninth annual World Sledge Hockey Challenge set for Bridgewater, N.S. January 17-23. Canada is a five-time tournament champion and the defending bronze medallist.
Although at this point not a Paralympic sport, the national women’s sledge hockey program is also busy this season. Sixteen players were named to the national squad following a selection camp last month in Ottawa. A Canada-USA exhibition series kicks-off the campaign November 6-8 in Brampton, Ont.