Sport: Wheelchair Curling
Local Club: RA Centre
By Ethan Diamandas
It’s been 16 years since Collinda Joseph threw her first stone.
Back then, wheelchair curling was a mere second attempt at parasport after basketball didn’t pan out. Unsure of how things would go on the ice, Joseph tested her talents at the RA Centre during an RBC “Give It A Go” event put on by her rehab clinic.
She bonded with the sport instantly, and eventually joined a team in Ottawa in 2006. That’s where the adventure began.
The now 56-year-old Joseph – who suffered her injury during a train crash in 1983 – was originally shooting for the 2018 Paralympic Games in South Korea, but a strong Canadian team kept her off the roster. Undeterred, Joseph pushed to keep her goal alive, eventually representing Canada at the World Championships in 2019.
Now, Joseph has carried that dream to the ultimate stage, as she, alongside her four teammates, will represent Canada in wheelchair curling at the 2022 Beijing Paralympics.
“I was thrilled, and then I got really scared, all together at once,” Joseph told the Ottawa Sports Pages from her training centre in Vancouver. “It’s truly an honor to be selected. And to be able to call myself a Paralympian has been really a lifelong dream.”
For Joseph, it’s been a slow burn to wheelchair curling’s highest and brightest stage. What began as an opportunity to try something new has evolved into a full-fledged sporting career full of challenges, triumphs, failures, and excitement.
The Paralympics represent her toughest curling test yet, and while Joseph said she’s ready to compete, the weight of the moment isn’t lost on her, especially since Canada has medaled in every Games since 2006.
“Wearing the Maple Leaf is a massive responsibility,” Joseph said. “And one that I completely buy into, and I want to do well, and I want to perform well.”
With a deep roster, Canada is expected to do well again this year. Joseph brings her own experience, but Beijing will be her first-ever Games, putting her in a juxtaposing position.
Her teammates, highlighted by skip Mark Ideson, have encouraged her to stay flexible, in both mindset and play style once the Games begin.
“I feel like I really am a rookie, and I am just paying attention to [my teammates] a lot in how they approach the Games and leaning on their leadership to get us through,” said Joseph, who is slotted in as Team Canada’s fifth (alternate).
Joseph’s family, which includes her husband and two daughters in their 20s, is devastated they can’t travel to Beijing to watch her compete but will be cheering from afar once competition begins.
When the first stones are thrown in Beijing, Joseph said she’ll find strength in the knowledge that her daughters are watching their mom fulfill her dreams.
She’ll also take great pride in knowing the last 16 years have been worth the sacrifices.
“I think it’s just the accomplishment, and being able to say that you did it, and all this work and all this time is worth it because you got there and you reached your goal,” she said.
Joseph also has a deep desire to win.
“I’m a competitive person, and even playing a game of cribbage I get a little bit competitive,” laughed Joseph. “I’m always driven to do better and to do better for not only myself, but for individuals with disabilities.”
Outside of curling, Joseph works for the National Research Council of Canada, where she helps create federal accessibility legislation. It’s her job to help people with disabilities live better lives, and Joseph said she sees those same benefits in institutions like the Paralympic Games.
“In sport, I just think that there’s so much I can benefit from something like [the Games],” Joseph said. “Whether it’s social, physical, mental, the development as an individual within this environment is something that you wouldn’t want to replace. I’m learning so much every single time I go out there.”
As great as the platform is, this is still an intense tournament. Reigning Paralympic-champion China, Sweden, the U.S.A and Norway all boast strong teams, but Team Canada will definitely be a rink to watch in Beijing.
“We’re expecting to medal,” said Joseph, who placed 5th, 2nd and 10th with Team Canada at the past three World Championships. “We do have the gold medal in our sights and that’s what we’re going for.”
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