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Ottawa at the Paralympics Day 6: Wheelchair curlers clinch semifinal berth

By Ethan Diamandas, 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 6: Wheelchair curlers clinch semifinal berth

Canada trailed most of Wednesday night’s matchup versus Norway — the final match of the round robin — and looked on the brink of losing its opportunity to guarantee a spot in the playoff round.

Ottawa’s Collinda Joseph and the rest of Canada’s team have faced many tense moments this tournament, but this match carried the most pressure.

Canada was down to Norway by two points heading into the final end, where a win would send them to the semifinals. A loss, however, would have left it up to other teams’ results to determine their fate, or, even worse, leave it up to the Games’ statisticians to pick who advances — a concept that ended Canada’s women’s curling team’s Olympic tournament a few weeks ago.

With the hammer in the eighth, Canadian skip Mark Ideson first set two high guards to protect the house. After Norway tossed a couple stones, Canada called a timeout, where coach Mick Lizmore suggested the rink look to score three. 

Ina Forrest, one of two Canadian women on the team, uncorked two brilliant draws to set her team up perfectly. It took until the hammer, but when Jon Thurston delivered a perfect takeout on the button, Canada completed the resurgence with a 7-6 victory.  

“I think we thought we should be a playoff team, so it’s great that we officially are,” Forrest said after the match. “I think we just go forward playing the same no matter who we play – treating every shot like it matters, and do your best on every single one. We don’t ever quit, so we’re always going to be there.”

The comeback win was Canada’s gutsiest effort yet, and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, as the rink has locked up its playoff berth. 

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“We had a really great end in the eighth,” said Ideson, who breathed a deep sigh of relief upon winning. “Luckily, it was enough to get the W.”

Alpine skiers leave Beijing with two medals

They call downhill skiing an extreme sport for a reason, and this Paralympics showed everyone how challenging the events can be. 

On Thursday evening, Brian Rowland, of Merrickville, Ont., wrapped up his Olympics Games with a 12th place finish in the men’s giant slalom event. The 35-year-old was also disqualified and did not start in two other events. 

Neither of Ottawa’s two medallists placed in the giant slalom — Alexis Guimond (standing) did not finish, and Tristan Rodgers (visually impaired guide) departed the Games after his ski partner, Mac Marcoux, suffered an injury in a previous race. 

That said, Rodgers will still return to Canada with some hardware after he and Marcoux won silver in men’s downhill.

For Guimond, who earned a bronze medal in the super-G standing event, it’s a dream come true, and something he’d been looking to accomplish his entire para-sporting career. 

“Four years ago, he was a young cowboy who wanted a medal at all costs,” his father, Claude Guimond, told Radio-Canada in a French-language interview. “I find it phenomenal what he did.”

Claude said he hoped his son would compete in the traditional slalom on Friday, though that’s unlikely at this point. It appears the ‘young cowboy’ will have to settle for a single medal in Beijing. 

Day 7 Preview: Time to rest before curling medal round

After a killer performance in its last match, Canada’s wheelchair curling team will take some much-deserved time to decompress before it faces its next opponent.

“We’re definitely going to prioritize rest and recovery,” Ideson said. “It’s a long week, with ten games in a row… a little rest wouldn’t hurt.”

Canada can now sleep a little easier since it dodged a potential tiebreaker. 

“If we’d had a loss [versus Norway], who knows how it would have played out?” said Ideson. “I was really happy to get into the playoffs without having to go through that.”

Canada will take on China in the semifinals Friday at roughly 2:35 a.m. eastern time.

If they’re unsuccessful against the Chinese, they’ll find themselves playing for a bronze medal, later in the morning (our time). That match would start at 6:35 a.m. They gold medal match is the following day.

Routine the key to victory in para hockey semifinal rematch

The Paralympic Games are an overwhelming experience for most young athletes, but not for Ottawa’s Ben Delaney, who at 25 years old is already competing in his third Games. 

At Sochi in 2014, a 17-year-old Delaney was the youngest player on the team. But between competition and off-ice high school study session, he held his own. 

“I was in Grade 12 and we went to Sochi,” Delaney told the Sports Pages before the Games. “I was so nervous, and it was a really crazy experience.

“I’m really grateful for it because it definitely made a much better hockey player out of me, and that prepared me for future competitions to just kind of calm down and have a little more belief in myself.”

Delaney would leave Sochi with a bronze medal, then pick up a silver in Pyeongchang four years later. Through it all, the winger has discovered the importance of routine in the hours before each game. 

“I usually try and take a nap before every game,” Delaney said. “I’m a veteran; I’ve been playing the sport for a while.

“So I have experience; I put in the work; I put in the time. Now it’s just going out and doing it. It’s as simple as that. I love playing hockey and just kind of going out there and having fun and playing hard.”

With a rematch against South Korea in the semifinals Thursday at 11:05 p.m. eastern, Delaney — along with fellow Ottawa reps Tyrone HenryAnton Jacobs-Webb, and Rob Armstrong — will look to clean up any aspects of the game that need fine-tuning. 

Canada is the favoured team, but it can’t afford to be anything but sharp as can be if it hopes to advance to the gold medal game, which would likely be against the U.S. in a rematch of last Games’ championship.

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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