RICHMOND, B.C. – Since the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, Mark Ideson of London, Ont. has held the position of skip on Canada’s wheelchair curling team.
The skip is the player who determines the strategy and makes the final decision on where players direct their shots in a game. Usually the skip shoots last, but for Team Canada Ideson is actually the lead shooter and leaves those point determining shots to eagle-eyed Jon Thurston of Dunsford, Ont. Thurston has shot last for Canada since 2020.
Since taking strategic command of the team, Ideson has earned two Paralympic bronze medals and a silver at the 2021 world championships. He is aiming for gold this week at the worlds being held on home ice in Richmond, B.C.
His reign on paper looks quite remarkable. Canada is rich in experienced players and Ideson doesn’t need to stray far for additional expert opinions on strategies that need to be deciphered in matters of seconds especially in hotly contested games.
But even for players like Thurston and four-time Paralympian Ina Forrest of Spallumcheen, B.C., Ideson is the man for the job.
“Mark always remains calm on the ice,” said Forrest, at her 13th worlds this week. “We’ve really seen his knowledge evolve over the years. Initially he was more of a defensive strategist, but he’s brought a more aggressive brand to our kind of play.”
As the fourth player with the decisive shot every end, Thurston says Ideson makes every member on the team confident.
‘’It’s about leadership with Mark,’’ said Thurston. ‘’He devotes a lot of time to studying the strategy of the game and always thinking about ways we can improve. He is one of the best skips in the world.’’
The sport is a passion for Ideson.
‘’I’m a student of the game,’’ he said. ‘’I learn as much as I can about tactics and tinker a lot with deliveries. I love the sport and the entire program.’’
At the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, Ideson led Canada to the bronze to maintain the country’s medal streak at the Games with a podium in every wheelchair curling event at the Paralympics since its debut in 2006.
‘’We had a great 2022 but ran into a juggernaut in China,’’ said Ideson, a three-time Paralympian. ‘’They are such a strong team and we’ve studied tapes to make some strategical adjustments.’’
Ideson gave a glimpse it could be a different Team Canada in Richmond.
“It’s important that we don’t become too predictable. We’ve made some technical changes which we hope can add some offence.
‘’We’ve added a few tricks in our toolbox.”