OTTAWA - The winter season kicks into full gear this month with World Cup events in Para alpine skiing, Para Nordic skiing and Para snowboard. Athletes in all three sports are tuning up for their respective world championships this winter as are those in Para ice hockey and wheelchair curling.
Here are five athletes, who did not win a medal in PyeongChang last March, that are poised to leave bigger footprints in 2019.
Young veteran Braydon Luscombe would love nothing more than get his first world championship podium this season. The worlds are set for January 21 to February 1 in Slovenia. The 26-year-old two-time Paralympian has put the emphasis on the speed events this fall in his training.
He’ll also be buoyed by the 10-day, 432-kilometre run from the Okanagan to his hometown of Victoria organized by his brother Tyler this fall that raised $10,000 to help Luscombe with his travel and equipment costs.
Collinda Joseph will be wearing the Maple Leaf proudly when she makes her Team Canada debut at the 2019 World Wheelchair Curling Championship, March 3-10 in Stirling, Scotland.
Joseph, of Stittsville, Ont., has been a contender to crack the national team in past seasons, but her consistent play through the first half 2018-19 made it impossible for the national team selectors to leave her out of the lineup.
A three-time Ontario champion, Joseph will be part of a Canadian team in Scotland that will be looking to end a podium dry-spell that goes back to 2013 at Sochi when Canada claimed gold at the world championship.
Para Nordic skier Derek Zaplotinsky continued to make giant strides last season as he cracked the top-10 at the Paralympic Winter Games. He posted ninth place finishes in both the biathlon sprint and the 15 kilometre sitting in cross country. His best international result is fifth in the 15 km biathlon at the 2017 world championships. Those are results he’d like to repeat more consistently this winter especially at the World Para Nordic Championships set for February 15-24 in Prince George, B.C.
Sandrine Hamel is definitely a rising star in the Para snowboard world. The 21-year-old from St-Sauveur, Que., showed her potential with fifth-place finishes in the snowboard cross and banked slalom at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
‘’There are a lot of little details that I want to improve this season,’’ said Hamel, 21, born with a double major scoliosis. ‘’In a Paralympic year you tend to focus more on your strengths so now I can look at bettering my jumps and my passing tactics in particular.’’
She hopes to be at the top of her game for the world championships March 25 to April 1 in Pyha, Finland.
Last season Antoine Lehoux was one of the last players cut for the selection to the Para ice hockey national team that eventually won a silver medal at the Paralympic Winter Games. The decision was heartbreaking but the overall experience enriching.
At the Canadian Tire Para Hockey Cup in December, Lehoux earned his fair share of ice time leaving him exuberant for the road to Beijing in 2022. With potentially as many as nine spots to fill for the world championships this April in the Czech Republic, Lehoux should feel confident he has an upper hand for a spot on the national team.