Canada’s Para athletes won’t be entering the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing "cold" as key events are scheduled over the next few months to set the stage for the Games on March 4-13.
The Canadian Para ice hockey team, chasing its first Games gold since 2006, is already in the heart of its preparations for Beijing. In November alone it has split a two-game series with the world and defending Paralympic champions USA and swept a four-game series against the 2018 Games bronze medallists South Korea.
The team enters this Paralympic Games season with a solid core of veterans including Billy Bridges, set for a sixth Games, and four-time Paralympian Greg Westlake along with young veterans such as Liam Hickey and Ben Delaney while players such as Antoine Lehoux and Zach Lavin hope to slip into a tough line-up.
Next month they take off to Ostrava, Czech Republic for an international tournament against their top rivals December 12-19. They will face off against the Americans, Czech Republic, and Russia twice apiece in the round-robin tournament.
Another two-game series against USA, which beat Canada in the last world championships and Paralympic final, has also been added to the schedule and is set for Elmira, Ont. on February 4 and 5.
Here are some other key events leading up to the Beijing Games:
January 8-23, 2022: World Para Snow Sports Championships, Lillehammer, Norway
Postponed in early 2021 due to the pandemic, these are the world championships for Para alpine skiing, Para nordic skiing and Para snowboard, all rolled into one for the first time. Taking place less than two months before the Paralympic Winter Games and with more than 750 athletes from 30 countries expected to compete, it will be an exciting and significant tune-up event ahead of the Games.
December 4-12, 2021: World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup, Canmore, Alberta
This is the first Para nordic World Cup of the season and it will be held in the Canadian team’s training backyard. Canada returns with all its stars from the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games squad which won 16 of the nation’s 28 medals. This includes Canada’s most successful winter Paralympian Brian McKeever, as well as Mark Arendz, Natalie Wilkie, Collin Cameron, and Brittany Hudak. There is one other World Cup stop for Para nordic before the Games scheduled for January 27 to February 1 in Ostersund, Sweden.
December 17-21, 2021: World Para Alpine Skiing World Cup, St. Moritz, Switzerland
The first 2021-22 Para alpine World Cup event gets underway December 17 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. As is the case in Para nordic, Canada has a solid core in Para alpine skiing including 2018 Paralympic champions Mac Marcoux, Kurt Oatway, and Mollie Jepsen. The other World Cups are also in Europe before the Games: January 27-30 in Are, Sweden and February 6-13 in Veysonnaz, Switzerland.
February 8-12, 2022: World Para Snowboard World Cup, Big White, B.C.
The busiest World Cup season for winter sport is in Para snowboard with five events. The season culminates on Canadian soil February 7-13 at Big White, B.C. less than a month before the start of the Paralympic Winter Games. The season starts at the tradition Para snowboard World Cup opener at the indoor venue at Landgraaf, Netherlands from November 28-30. Pyha, Finland and Hochfuegen, Austria also host stops in December before the riders gather in late January in Klovsjo, Sweden. Alex Massie and Sandrine Hamel lead Canada in the sport.
Wheelchair curling team
Canada’s wheelchair curling team recently competed in the 2021 world championships at the Paralympic venue in Beijing, and will now focus on training camps and practice leading into the Games. The team placed fifth at the worlds with skip Mark Ideson, Ina Forrest, Dennis Thiessen, Jon Thurston, and alternate Collinda Joseph.
China defeated Sweden for the gold while the Russian Curling Federation beat USA for bronze. The Chinese are the defending Games champions, ending Canada’s streak of three consecutive Paralympic titles in PyeongChang in 2018. The Canadians took home bronze at those Games.