BC athletes front and centre at World Wheelchair event

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February 8, 2013, (ISN) – Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet will be among the athletes from B.C. competing at the World Wheelchair Curling Championship in Sochi later this month.

Gaudet is Canada’s most decorated wheelchair curler, with two previous world championships to go along with two Paralympic Games gold medals, and will be participating in her sixth world championship. This year’s event starts on February 16 in Sochi, Russia, and is a test event for 2014 Paralympic curling.

Gaudet, from Vernon, is joined by former BC resident Jim Armstrong [now Cambridge, Ont.], second Ina Forrest [Armstrong, B.C.] and coach Joe Rea [Prince George, B.C.]. Their team leader is Wendy Morgan [Burlington, Ont.]. Vice-skip Dennis Thiessen (Sanford, Man.) and alternate Mark Ideson (London, Ont.), will be making their international debuts at the Ice Cube Curling Center in Sochi.

Gaudet had a piece of advice for the rookies on the team.

“Oh, boy,” said Gaudet, when asked about what she might say to her new teammates. “Just go out and enjoy the experience and know that they’re travelling with a group of people who’ve been there a few times; there’s a lot of comfort in that. Mark and Dennis are awesome teammates, awesome curlers — they are going to fit right in. They’ve just got to put that pressure right out of their mind.”

There will be some pressure as Canada attempts to reclaim the world championship it last won in 2011.

Canada is traditionally a favourite going into any international curling competition. As well, with the 2013 world championship serving as the official test event for the wheelchair curling competition at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in 13 months, thoughts of those Paralympics will be hard to avoid.

Gaudet, though, believes it’s a good opportunity for Canadian players and coaches to check out the Paralympic facility. The Canadian Paralympic team will be named later this year, with the five current members of Team Canada all strong candidates.

“That’s certainly a good thing for us (to play in Sochi); we get to check out the venue and be prepared for next year, get all our ducks in a row and know what to expect,” said Gaudet. “Definitely, it’s a bonus.”

Canada will open the Wheelchair Worlds on Feb. 16 against South Korea’s Hak-Sung Kim at 9:30 a.m. local time. For the full schedule, refer to: http://wwhcc2013.curlingevents.com/schedule

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