Jon Thurston enjoys pressure-packed role

Canadian Paralympic Committee

December 04, 2020

Wheelchair curler embracing throwing last rock for Canada

Jon Thurston

DUNSFORD, Ont. – In a sport where often times last shot wins, Jon Thurston is the man holding the fate of his team in his hands.

And it’s not just any team. Thurston is the ultimate shooter for Canada’s wheelchair curling team.

Every end, every game, hangs in the balance of his two rocks. But it’s a scenario Thurston relishes.

‘’I’ve got an amazing team in front of me who set me up really well and that really helps me out a lot,’’ said Thurston, who lives in Dunsford, Ont. and curls out of the Peterborough Curling Club.

‘’Mark (Ideson), Dennis (Thiessen) and Ina (Forrest) as well as the coaching staff have a lot of experience internationally so I can definitely lean on them. I just feel that I can make the shots and we’ll be just fine.”

Usually on a curling team, it’s the skip that shoots last. But Team Canada skip Mark Ideson, noticing Thurston’s marksmanship, decided to put his young protégé in the pressure situation. So far the gamble has paid off.  Thurston is the youngest national team member at 35 and only started playing in 2012.

‘’I like the position,” Thurston said. ‘’I like the added pressure and put a lot of work into it. The 2020 worlds were pretty amazing. We had some nail-biters.”

Thurston also receives tips from the national team’s performance consultant.

‘’We do a lot of work together on figuring out how to perform under pressure,’’ he said. ‘’It’s an aspect of the game I enjoy. A lot of it is about awareness. It’s knowing whether you’re a little excited or a little down and being able to regulate that. You have to make sure you’re calm and you’re ready for the moment.’’

The first tournament with Thurston as last rock pulled Canada out of a hole. They won the B pool worlds (Canada was relegated after a 12th place at the 2019 worlds) which put Canada back in the A group. They then won the silver medal at the 2020 world championships in early March. With this recent success, Canada – Paralympic Games champions in 2006, 2010 and 2014 and bronze medallists in 2018 – appears to be back on track heading into Beijing 2022.

After a construction accident in 2008 which left him paralyzed from the chest down, Thurston immediately turned to sport. Besides wheelchair curling, he is one of Canada’s top water skiers with a disability. He is also an archer, boxer and does some Jiu-Jitsu. In archery one of his instructors is none other than retired five-time Paralympian Alec Denys.

‘’I got into water skiing three years ago and really enjoy it. I love the water,’’ said Thurston. “Archery is pretty demanding, and Alec has helped me a lot. We’ve done a few camps and a lot of training at his place. He is amazing and he’s also a curler.”

But it was curling that appealed to Thurston the most.

’I first tried curling in 2012 and had never done it before,’’ he said. ‘’It was the only sport I was involved in that was so inclusive. I could play against able-bodied players, you didn’t need much equipment, it was a lot of fun, like chess on ice.”

Thurston now hopes he’ll be able to play a checkmate stone at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

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