Paralympic team skip a tough and satisfying role for Mark Ideson

The skip role was one he relished but it came with added responsibilities and pressure.

OTTAWA – Mark Ideson won’t soon forget his role as skip for Canada’s wheelchair curling team at the recent Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. 

The tournament was a big success as Canada re-emerged in the international picture with the bronze medal. The team was coming off a tough quad posting sixth, seventh and fifth place finishes at the three previous world championships.

The skip role was one the 41-year-old relished but it was also a position that came with added responsibilities and pressure. 

‘’I really enjoyed the position to skip but it took me a few games to get comfortable with it,’’’ admitted Ideson, during a break from helping kids at the curling station at the Canadian Tire Jump Start Games held recently at the University of Ottawa.

‘’There’s more pressure that goes along with it. I had a lot of support from our staff and teammates.’’

Back in 2014 at the Sochi Paralympic Games, Ideson was the alternate on the Canadian team that won a third straight Games gold medal. But he has been a national team stalwart ever since so the transition was smooth for the team.

‘’The comfort level was there immediately with Mark as skip,’’ said Canada’s third Ina Forrest. ‘’Everybody was able to play their game. He’s a really calm guy, complimentary and everybody just feels good about themselves.’’

In PyeongChang, Canada went 9-2 in the round robin but lost a 4-3 heartbreaker to China in the semifinal which went down to the final rock. Canada bounced back to beat South Korea for the bronze.

‘’It’s hard to find the balance of calling the game and throwing the last rock; sometimes your calling well and not throwing well or vice versa,’’ said Ideson, diagnosed with quadriplegia after a helicopter he was piloting crashed in a field near Cambridge, Ont., in 2007 caused multiple injuries.

‘’It is tough to make the right decision. But you try to narrow it down as best as you can. Still that time clock is ticking in the back of your mind.’’

Ideson plans to train hard this summer. He wants to skip more games and gain more experience. But in Canada in a sport like wheelchair curling no spot is secure.

‘’I hope to retain the position but there’s a lot of great players across the country who are vying for a spot on the team,’’ Ideson said.