Canada claims berth into World Wheelchair Championship with victory in Finland

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Team Canada Skip Mark Ideson

Team Canada is headed back to the World Wheelchair Curling Championship after its gold-medal victory at the World B Championship on Monday in Lohja, Finland.

Canada, skipped by Mark Ideson, was a 6-1 victor over Sweden’s Viljo Petersson-Dahl on Monday in the gold-medal game of the B pool qualifying event, from which three teams earned berths into the 2020 World Championship, scheduled for Feb. 29-March 7 in Wetzikon, Switzerland.

Canada was relegated to the B Pool after placing 10th at the 2019 World Wheelchair Championship in Stirling, Scotland.

So Monday’s victory erased any lingering demons from the disappointment of 2019, said Ideson.

“We unfortunately found ourselves in a predicament that we didn’t expect last year, and we came into this tournament with 15 really good teams looking for three spots,” said Ideson, whose team for Monday’s final was rounded out by vice-skip Ina Forrest, second Dennis Thiessen, last-rock thrower Jon Thurston (Ideson threw lead rocks), alternate Marie Wright and coach Wayne Kiel. “But we did our homework, and everyone worked really hard leading up to this event. It was really cool to see the commitment that we put in come to fruition.”

Canada topped its round-robin pool in Finland with a 5-1 record, and then cruised into the gold-medal game with a 10-4 win over the Czech Republic’s Dana Selnekovicova in the semifinal on Sunday.

“This team has shown its ability and strength,” said Kiel. “We’ve grown stronger day by day by day; these guys were phenomenal today.”

The week in Finland got off to a less-than-desired start a week ago when the team was on a sight-seeing bus that hit a patch of black ice and went into a ditch. No one was injured, fortunately, and the first-responders were outstanding, said team members.

“Those things happen; it’s out of our control, and the only thing we could control was the way we handled it,” said Ideson. “Everyone handled it with calm; everyone in this tournament, and on our team, has lived through some experiences that have helped us deal with situations like that. We worked through it together and kind of left it behind not too long after it happened and focused on what we had to do this week.”

The Czechs claimed the third available worlds berth with a 10-7 win over Slovenia in the bronze-medal game.

Team Canada will head to Switzerland in February in pursuit of a fourth world championship, and its first since 2013 at Sochi, Russia.

The 2020 Wheelchair Worlds will the first event in which qualifying points will be available for countries to make the field for the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing.

“We’ll use this as a bit of a springboard going into Switzerland,” said Ideson. “Obviously, there will be a lot of good teams there, but we feel really good about where we’re at right now.”

“This team is ready to go,” added Kiel. “We’re so proud of what they’ve accomplished. It’s something we knew we had to do, and they came and did it. The rest of the world knows now that we’re ready to come back.”