The 14th Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship gets underway Monday in Boucherville, Que., at the Club de curling Boucherville in the Complexe sportif Duval Auto. It marks the third time in the last four years that the city has hosted the event.
Ten teams, representing nine provinces (no P.E.I.) plus Northern Ontario, play a round robin through Friday, April 28, followed by playoff games on Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m. — 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3. The winners advance to the gold-medal final Sunday at 10 a.m. (all times ET) while the losers meet in the bronze-medal match at the same time.
Last year at Regina, the home-province Saskatchewan team, skipped by Darwin Bender, defeated Northern Ontario’s Doug Dean, 5-2 in the final — the second championship by Bender and teammates Marie Wright, Gil Dash and Larry Schrader, following their initial win in 2012 at Thunder Bay, Ont.
The defending champions return but the team is now skipped by Dash, as they face some familiar foes during the week. Dean’s team also returns intact.
They are joined by former winning skips Dennis Thiessen of Manitoba, Quebec’s Benoît Lessard and Gerry Austgarden of British Columbia.
Thiessen and two of his teammates from Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club — third Mark Wherrett and second Jamie Anseeuw — won the 2014 championship in Boucherville.
Thiessen also won a gold medal when playing second for Team Canada (skip Jim Armstrong) in the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at Sochi, Russia, played third for Armstrong when winning the 2013 World Wheelchair and was the third for Chris Sobkowicz when winning the 2011 Canadian title at Edmonton.
Lessard won the 2013 championship at Ottawa and was runner-up to Thiessen in 2014. Austgarden is a three-time winner, as skip in 2015 at Boucherville and as third for Team Canada’s Chris Daw in 2006, when he also won a gold medal in the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games at Pinerolo, Italy. He was also the alternate for Daw’s winning team in the 2005 Canadian championship.
Rounding out the field are Alberta (skip Jack Smart), New Brunswick (Michael Fitzgerald), Newfoundland and Labrador (Cecilia Carroll), Nova Scotia (Trendal Hubley-Bolivar) and Ontario (Mike Munro).
Alberta third Bruno Yizek was the alternate for Canada (skip Jim Armstrong) when winning gold medals in both the 2010 Paralympic Games at Vancouver and the 2011 World Wheelchair Curling Championship at Prague while B.C. third Darryl Neighbour is a three-time winner — as skip in 2007, as an alternate (skip Jim Armstrong) in 2009 and as third for Austgarden in 2015. He also won a Paralympic gold medal in 2010 at Vancouver, when playing third for Armstrong.
The Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship began in 2004. It was captured the first three years by Team Canada (skip Chris Daw), then by British Columbia the next four— 2007 (skip Darryl Neighbour), 2008 and 2009 (skip Jim Armstrong) and 2010 (skip Gary Cormack). Manitoba (skip Chris Sobkowicz) won its first of two titles in 2011, followed by Saskatchewan (skip Darwin Bender) in 2012, Quebec (skip Benoît Lessard) in 2013, Manitoba (skip Dennis Thiessen) in 2014 and British Columbia (Gerry Austgarden) in 2015.
The teams practise Monday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., followed by the Opening Ceremonies at 3 p.m., with the first draw at 4 p.m. From Tuesday through Thursday, draws are at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. The final two draws in the round robin take place Friday at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.