Follow my journey as a Students Live reporter through the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games and beyond!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Some Remarkable Stories

I have now been to 2 Wheelchair Curling Games courtesy of VANOC and I now have a better sense of how the sport works.

What might be even more interesting than the sport itself is the stories behind each and every athlete. After seeing our four Canadian curlers for the second time and seeing how amazing they are at what they do, I decided to look further into their histories.

Our women:

Ina Forrest and Sonja Gaudet

Ina Forrest is the teams "Second" and is from Armstrong, BC. Being a mother of 3 and owning her own business, Ina says the hardest thing about being an elite athlete is the time commitment. "Life is a journey so plan a great trip" is Ina's life motto, I think this says something about the drive and perseverance she has. When Ina was 21 years old she was hit by a car driven by an impaired driver which left her a paraplegic. It was in a Costco where a man approached Ina and stated that she should consider taking up wheelchair curling. She admitted that the sport didn't excite her all that much until she tried it for herself, then 2 weeks later she was hooked. Ina and teammate Sonja Gaudet curl in the same club in Vernon against able-bodied curlers.

Sonja Gaudet was on the Paralympic team in 2006 when Wheelchair Curling made its Paralympic debut, and Canada brought home the gold. Sonja is a North Vancouver baby, but now lives in Vernon, BC. She continues to row, bike, swim, play basketball and tennis even after her accident which claimed the use of her legs. Sonja was paralyzed after a fall from a horse which left her with severe spinal cord injuries. It wasn't until after the accident that Sonja got involved with curling, and almost the first time on the ice Sonja knew this was the sport for her. Sonja is an ambassador with the Rick Hansen Foundation and the Canadian Paralympic Committee. She also has a strong interest in accessibility issues. Sonja is currently a mother of two teenagers and she always says how her family comes first; her curling schedule must revolve around the lives of her family members.

Our Men:

Darryl Neighbour and Jim Armstrong

Darryl Neighbour is team Canada's "third", and is a paraplegic after falling from a roof in 2000. He is an ambassador of the Rick Hansen foundation and curls with two clubs: the Richmond Curling Club, and the Marpole Curling Club in Vancouver. Darryl is also a spokesperson for BC Wheelchair Sports, which makes his one very busy man. To top it all off, Darryl comes from a family of 7 girls and 7 boys. It was just 6 years ago that Darryl took up the sport and now he is hoping for a gold here in Vancouver with the help of his teammate Jim Armstrong who he says has lots of knowledge and experience in the game. At the age of 61, Darryl is probably one of the oldest athletes competing in these Games.

Jim Armstrong is known as a gentle giant and is the "skip" for our Canadian Wheelchair Curling team. To him, it doesn't seem like long ago that he was competing in the Brier, but things suddenly changed after a brutal car accident in 2003. After the accident Jim said he had no need or no interest in going to the rink, and it left a huge hole in his life. Jim missed the sport and the rink, but mostly the people, he said the social aspect was the hardest to get used to. Armstrong thought the rest of his life would be curling-free, and it wasn't until a former teammate suggested the sport that it even crossed his mind. Although Jim is happy to be competing in the Paralympic Games, it isn't all easy; he was in another car accident recently and is still recovering from a shoulder injury, and to top it all off, Jim just recently lost his wife to cancer. Armstrong says he wants to win the gold for his wife who has been so supportive, and just last year she stated that she only wanted one more thing from her life, and that was to see him compete in the 2010 Paralympic Games.

After this team of remarkable athletes played an amazing game against the Norwegians I had the chance to talk to Sonja Gaudet.

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