There’s no point asking Team Canada’s wheelchair curlers what their goals are at a world championships.
It’s always gold, and past international success reflects that abundance of confidence.
But every year it keeps getting harder to get that gold. The international field has matched Canada in strength making every world championships and Paralympic Games tournament hard to predict with a half dozen nations considered contenders.
Canada has reached the podium at every Paralympic Games in wheelchair curling with gold medals in 2006, 2010 and 2014 and bronze at the last two Games.
At the world championships however, success hasn’t been so consistent for the red and white squad, with just one silver medal (2020) at the past six editions. Still with 13 Paralympic Games between them, Canada will once again be a formidable opponent on home ice at the 2023 World Wheelchair Curling Championship taking place March 4-12 in Richmond, B.C.
“I think being at home will be a real advantage for us,” said Canadian third Ina Forrest of Spallumcheen, B.C., a four-time Paralympian who is entering her 13th world championships. “We’ll be in a comfortable space, the hotel will be right close, the time change is minimal, and more people will be cheering for us.”
There is also a wealth of experience on the Canadian squad. She is joined by skip and lead Mark Ideson of London, Ont., a three-time Paralympian entering his eighth worlds, fourth Jon Thurston of Dunsford, Ont., a Beijing 2022 Paralympian, and second Gil Dash of Wolseley, Sask., an experienced player who is making his worlds debut.
Marie Wright of Moose Jaw, Sask., a member of the 2018 Paralympic Games team, is the alternate. Wright has made a remarkable return from a serious non-Covid illness back in 2020. She played for Canada at the inaugural mixed doubles worlds in 2022 placing 13th with James Anseeuw and will certainly be an important presence on this year’s squad.
Speaking of mixed doubles, these world championships will have both the foursome game and mixed doubles tournaments running simultaneously. Canada will be represented by Collinda Joseph of Stittsville, Ont. and veteran Dennis Thiessen of Sanford, Man.
“Dennis and I have known each other since 2009,” said Joseph, a member of the 2022 Paralympic team. “We communicate and connect on the ice. Doubles is a different mindset altogether. There are only five stones instead of eight, so you have to change your thinking and what you need to score.”
Back to the foursome game, there are 12 countries all in one pool at the 2023 worlds. Joining Canada are China (defending Paralympic and world champions), Czechia, Denmark, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Norway, Scotland, Sweden and the United States.
Haitao Wang returns once again as China’s skip but with three different teammates from Beijing 2022.
Canada opens the tournament on March 4 against the Chinese and continue round robin play against the U.S. and Latvia March 5, Japan and Norway March 6, Italy and Scotland March 7, South Korea and Sweden March 8 and Denmark March 9.
The top six teams after the round robin advance to the play-off stage. Teams ranked first and second progress directly to the semifinals. The quarterfinals are March 10, semis March 11, and medal games March 12.
There are 19 teams in mixed doubles and they are split into two pools. Canada is in Group B with Denmark, England, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, and Sweden. Group A teams are China, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Scotland, Slovakia, Switzerland and United States. Sweden is the defending champion.
Round-robin play starts on Saturday March 4 and continues until Friday March 10.
The top teams of each group progress directly to the semifinals. The teams ranked second and third in each group play in qualification games on Saturday March 11. The winners of these games advance to the semifinals later Saturday.
Both medal games will take place on Sunday March 12.
Mixed doubles will make its Paralympic Games debut in 2026.
For more information, including schedules, visit: https://worldcurling.org/events/wwhcc2023?pageType=news