By Ethan Diamandas, Dan Plouffe, Martin Cleary & Charlie Pinkerton (This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Paralympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.)
Ottawa at the Paralympics Day 4: Para hockey into semis
Canada took care of business in para hockey Tuesday morning, routing South Korea 6-0 in the last game of round robin play.
Forward James Dunn scored a hat trick, but not without help from some local players; Ottawa’s Rob Armstrong assisted Dunn’s first goal and Gatineau’s Anton Jacobs-Webb added a helper on Dunn’s second.
It was a low-stress win for Canada, and the team’s veteran understood the importance of a game like this one.
“It’s good to get the win. We didn’t have a great first game here, of course. It’s important to bounce back: a rubber Band-Aid, so to speak,” said five-time Paralympian Greg Westlake, per CBC.
Now, the Canadian team gets some time off. With an automatic berth to the semifinals, it won’t play again until Friday. No matter the opponent, Canada will be a favourite in the semifinals. If they can take care of business, they’re almost guaranteed to end up facing the U.S. in the gold medal game.
It’s a tall task to defeat the U.S. — a team that crushed Canada 5-0 in prelim play — but it’s the reason Canada travelled to Beijing.
“I think the biggest thing for me, personally, is just to defeat the Americans to win that gold medal and not be second place anymore,” Jacobs-Webb told the Sports Pages before the Games. “We’ve been working and training for four years with this one game, the final game, in mind.”
Joseph sees her first Paralympic action
Ottawa’s Collinda Joseph came off the bench and into the wheelchair curling lineup Monday evening, starting the match as Canada’s second.
“12-and-a-half?” Joseph called out to her skip Mark Ideson, before tossing her first ever stone in the Paralympics.
“12-and-a-half,” Ideson responded, asking for the draw.
Joseph’s throw was on line, but too heavy, as it slid through the house for a miss. Joseph, who threw second stones for the Canadians, wound up curling 75% for the match, healthily outpacing the opposing second at 55%.
“It was pretty amazing,” Joseph said via the Canadian Paralympic Committee about making her Paralympic debut. “I was kind of shaking at the beginning – physically shaking – so I was trying to calm myself down. So after the first two shots, I got into the rhythm of the game and settled in.”
The 56-year-old’s debut was about the only exciting part of this match from a Canadian perspective, as South Korea surprisingly dispatched Canada 8-4, handing the team its second straight loss.
“I thought we communicated well, but maybe a little bit less than we have in previous games, so definitely something we’ll talk about and get back to when we get back on the ice,” Ideson told CBC after the loss.
Joseph returned to the bench for Canada’s matchup versus Slovakia. That match was much more exciting, with both teams stealing points back and forth.
Ultimately, it was Slovakia that suffocated Canada in the eighth end, holding on for a 9-8 win.
Rowland doesn’t compete in super-combined sit-ski
Brian Rowland, of Merrickville, Ont., was given a DNS (did not start) classification for Monday evening’s super-combined sit-skiing event, meaning he didn’t compete in the race. The giant slalom is scheduled for Thursday night/Friday morning Ottawa time.
Rowland was also disqualified for missing a gate in the downhill event, and placed 10th in the super-G race afterwards. As a tough competitor, the 35-year-old is likely frustrated he didn’t finish two of his races, but there’s still plenty of positive takeaways from his first Paralympics.
Rowland took up sit-skiing just five years ago, hoping for a new thrill after his accident. As a former snowboarder and motocross racer, Rowland teamed up with Calabogie Peaks instructor Andy Van Grunsven to make the transition to the slopes. By all accounts, the excitement carried over.
“I’ve always had a passion for speed … the best feeling is after a race and, if you complete it, there’s such an adrenaline rush,” he told the Sports Pages before the Games.
In that same pre-Games interview, Rowland previewed his ‘pedal-to-the-metal’ style of racing.
“It (racing) is an all-or-nothing kind of race. I have DNFed, but it’s hard to find the balance between going too hard and not going hard enough,” he said. “I’m in it to win it. I can be in contention, but there are guys who have been in my field for a long time.”
It was a humbling experience for Rowland in Beijing, but, as an experienced racer in a variety of sports, he’ll learn from it and be back before long.
Inclusion in 2030 Paralympics is the dream for Team Canada para ice hockey women
Today is International Women’s Day, so we’d like to take the chance to shine a bit of light on some female athletes pushing for their chance to join the Paralympic Games.
Joseph took up wheelchair curling at age 40 and trained 15 hours a week in pursuit of her Paralympic dream – which has at last come true 16 years later – all while working full-time and raising two daughters who are now in their 20s.
We noted in our intro to the team that Joseph is the only female athlete within our local group of eight, which aligned with the composition of the Canadian Winter Paralympic team (35 of 49 athletes are male).
A report by The Canadian Press’s Donna Spencer titled Canadian team makeup reflects gender gap at Beijing Paralympic Games showed that women make up slightly under a quarter of all Paralympics participants.
Para ice hockey – which the International Paralympic Committee “slapped a ‘mixed’ label on” before the 2010 Games, but has only had three female players in the last four Games, Spencer wrote – is the big source of the imbalance, with its 17-athlete rosters.
But women’s para ice hockey had been gaining momentum in recent years (COVID certainly did cut into that), and the dream is to see the sport included on the Paralympic programme come 2030, Team Canada coach Tara Chisholm highlighted in the CP article. And the even greater dream would be to have those Games be in Vancouver, she added.
The roots of women’s para ice hockey lie in Ottawa. The first-ever all-female sledge hockey game was played in Ottawa in 2007, when a team of Canadians and Americans faced off. National team programs have grown over time on both sides of the border, with the organization and frequency of training camps and games continually increasing.
Twelve nations participated in the 2018 Women’s Para Ice Hockey World Cup in Czech Republic, with Canada taking silver behind USA in a 1-0 gold medal match.
“Canada and the U.S. have a good presence, but it’s about getting that third and fourth and fifth team,” Sledge Hockey of Eastern Ontario acting president Alain Bazinet highlighted in a recent interview with the Sports Pages’ Dan Plouffe. “There is some appetite in some other European countries that are developing, but it’s not there yet.”
Run locally out of Jim Durrell Recreation Centre, SHEO’s programs are mixed gender, with divisions organized based on experience/skill level. Team Canada player Rebecca Sharp comes in from Mallorytown (just past Brockville) for all of SHEO’s sessions, serving as coach for the development program.
“She’s very involved in giving back,” Bazinet says of Sharp, who recently went to Saskatchewan for her first camp since COVID hit with the national team, which also includes Camille Lalonde of Rockland.
SHEO’s female presence has been bolstered recently by volunteers from the Ottawa Girls Hockey Association, who help run drills or give some younger players a boost in their sleds when needed.
“We always try to create different ways for women’s organizations to see us, so that way we can grow the sport on the women’s side as well,” signals Bazinet. “And it’s super helpful for us to have some strong skaters assisting as well.”
Helping SHEO has served as a great character- and community-building exercise for OGHA players, who have also gained a deeper appreciation for parasport, highlights OGHA director of marketing and programs Marc Lugert.
“It’s crazy actually. They are very impressive athletes,” Lugert adds. “For us, it’s about broadening your horizon to understand and see that there are people who have certain handicaps, but they can still play just like us – they just have different abilities, that’s all.”
Here at the Ottawa Sports Pages, we’ll definitely be pulling for more female parasport athletes to get involved in winter sports, and to receive opportunities at the highest level.
Though mainstream sports coverage is obviously heavily dominated by male pro sports, this is unusual for us to be writing mostly about the boys. With a focus on the amateur ranks, roughly two-thirds of our Sports Pages newspaper covers have featured female athletes.
We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that Rebecca Sharp, or the next young star, will be among the Paralympians we’re following come those 2030 Games, in Canada of course!
One last item we’d like to share on International Women’s Day: Around this time last year, we published a Women’s Inclusion in Sport Series, where we examined issues concerning women’s sport from both a local and global perspective. We invite you to look back through those articles to bolster your IWD celebrations.
Day 5 Preview: Curling creeps closer to playoffs
Canada will look to shake loose from its ugly three-game losing streak, as it’s running out of time to salvage a spot in the tournament’s playoff bracket. The team competes Wednesday at 1:35 a.m. eastern against Great Britain, then again at 6:35 a.m. eastern against Estonia.
Through seven games, Canada sits in a tie for fourth place (the final playoff spot) with a 4-3 record.
This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Paralympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.
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