Canada’s Ideson finds love for wheelchair curling by breaking promise with himself

Canada is among the 12 teams that will compete at the 2023 World Wheelchair Curling Championship, which will be held between 4 and 12 March in Richmond, Canada 03 Mar 2023
A male athlete slides a curling stone using a stick on the ice at Beijing 2022. He is on a wheelchair and another male athlete is holding onto the tires.
Canada won a bronze medal in wheelchair curling at Beijing 2022.
ⒸBob Martin/OIS
By Ayano Shimizu | For the IPC

Promises are made to be fulfilled. But ask Canada’s Mark Ideson and he will tell you that some promises are meant to be broken.

It was by breaking a promise he made with himself after a life-changing helicopter accident that Ideson was able to return to the ice as a wheelchair curler and meet his teammates who have since become his “second family”.

Now, the veteran skip is a three-time Paralympian with a gold and two bronze medals, and he is hoping to help his team reach even higher grounds in the future.

One promise

Growing up in Canada, sports were a large part of Ideson’s life. He played golf and ice hockey, and also enjoyed curling with his friends every Thursday night when he was in his early 20s. 

But after a helicopter crash in 2007 that left him with quadriplegia, Ideson made the decision to leave these sports in the past. 

“I was in the hospital and I made this promise to myself that I wouldn’t play any sports I played able-bodied because I didn’t want to compare my old abilities to my new abilities,” he said.

While his friends asked him to try curling from a wheelchair, he told them that it was not something he would do. But in 2010, Ideson changed his mind and decided to give wheelchair curling a go.

Ideson has competed at three Paralympic Games since starting wheelchair curling in 2010. @Joe Toth/OIS

“You’re sitting down and throwing a rock with a stick from a chair, so I convinced myself it was that much different than able-bodied curling so I could really embrace it,” the Paralympian said. “It was a new challenge, and I wasn’t really comparing my old abilities to my new ones.”

Ideson still recalls how nervous he felt when he returned to the rink, and how challenging it was to throw the rock down the full length of the ice. 

Once he tried wheelchair curling, however, Ideson was reminded how much he missed being in a competitive environment and getting to know people through sports.

Three Paralympic Games

Ideson made his Paralympic debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, joining the experienced Canadian team as an alternate player. There, the team made up of Jim Armstrong, Ina Forrest, Sonja Gaudet, Dennis Thiessen and Ideson, topped the podium. 

Canada took bronze at PyeongChang 2018 and Beijing 2022, after losing to eventual gold medallists China in the semifinals at both Games. 

Canada has won a wheelchair curling medal at every Paralympic Games since the sport made its debut at Torino 2006. @Bob Martin/OIS

While Ideson has memories from all three Paralympic Games, one of his favourite moments was his first Opening Ceremony in Sochi. 

He recalls the excitement he felt when he saw athletes from around the world chanting their country’s national anthems and how proud he was to represent Canada at the Paralympic Games.

“To go from sitting in a hospital bed to being there just about to go on to the stage, it’s an indescribable feeling,” Ideson said. 

“It’s such a pleasure to share that experience with my teammates and coaching staff, and be able to do it three times in three different environments is so cool. I feel very lucky to have landed in this situation.”

A first-time experience

Despite Ideson’s decade-long career, there is something he has not experienced yet. He has never competed at a Paralympic Games or a World Championships on home soil.

But that will change when Canada hosts the 2023 World Wheelchair Curling Championship. Twelve teams, including China and Beijing 2022 silver medallists Sweden, will take part in the tournament in Richmond.

Sixty-year-old veteran Forrest, who is from British Columbia, is the only member of the team who has competed at the Paralympic Winter Games and World Championships in Canada.

“It will be new for the rest of us. It’s very, very exciting. My wife and kids will be there, my parents and aunts and uncles and cousins, and I think we’ll have a pretty good contingent of friends,” Ideson said.

Canada finished fifth at the 2021 World Championships where hosts China emerged as the winners. This time around, Ideson expects to get all the support he needs from his friends and family, including his teenage daughter Brooklyn, who started curling when she was 5. 

“They will be watching and to be able to play at home is a unique experience,” he said. “I’m not feeling any more pressure than at any other games, just maybe a little bit more comfort.”