PARRY SOUND – Mark Ideson likens his gold-medal win in Sochi, Russia, to the silver lining throughout what has been a difficult few years.
Team Canada players, from left, Ina Forrest, Jim Armstrong, Sonja Gaudet, Dennis Thiessen and Mark Ideson celebrate their gold-medal victory February 23.
World Curling Federation photo
Last month Ideson and Team Canada captured their third gold medal in the last four world championships, beating out Sweden’s Jalle Jungnell 4-3 in the final of the World Wheelchair Curling Championship.
A helicopter accident in on February 2, 2006, left the then 30-year-old a quadriplegic, but that didn’t stop him from continuing on with his love of curling that began here in Parry Sound.
In 2011 Ideson skipped for his team from the Iderton Curling Club to a third place finish at the Ontario Provincial Wheelchair Curling Championships. Last year, he won the Ontario Wheelchair Championships on the same team and represented Ontario at the National Wheelchair Curling Championships in Thunder Bay, coming home with a bronze medal.
Ideson and Team Canada arrived in Russia for the once-in-a-lifetime experience on February 11. The toughest part about heading overseas was the nine-hour time difference, Ideson said.
Prior to their first of 12 games that began on February 16, the team had the opportunity to practice on each of the Ice Cube’s four sheets.
“We had a couple of days of practices; there was a morning practice and an afternoon practice,” said Ideson from is Iderton home Monday morning. “We got to throw rocks on all four sheets, so you have 20 minutes on each sheet, so all five of us threw rocks on each sheet, which was good to get accustomed to the surroundings. The building was a lot bigger than what I’m used to playing it. It was nice to get in there and get my feet wet, throw some rocks just to practice.”
Playing as an alternate, Ideson only physically played in one game, but said there was no better feeling than throwing his first rock in that setting, representing his country.
“There are so many (memorable moments), stepping into the rink for the first time, playing against teams from across the world instead of just across the province or across the country was amazing, and to throw my first rock in a game – I’ll never forget that,” he said.
And the memorable moments for Ideson weren’t just on the ice. On his flight home, Ideson said he was late grabbing his connecting flight from London to Toronto and the plane waited for him.
“Everyone on board had to wait. They finally got me onboard and I sat down next to this lady and she was really friendly and so we struck up a conversation and she asked me where I was coming from,” he said. “So I told her and she stood up and told everyone on board. It made my late arrival a little happier, because I’m sure everyone was a little irritated by the fact that I was so late for the flight. We carried on our conversation from there and it turns out we had a Parry Sound connection, which was even more unique and exciting – it’s a small world.”
Ideson credits his wife, family and friends and the support from his hometown in helping him reach his goal.
“I couldn’t have got through without the support of my wife and family – I couldn’t have done it without them and all the support from home and Parry Sound throughout the tournament. It was heartwarming,” he said. “I was lucky enough to play in an international competition on a hockey team in Parry Sound when I was young. Our bantam team went over to Germany, which was also amazing and the only time I thought I would represent Canada, but this has been an even more amazing experience with all the stuff that I’ve gone through to get to this point.”
Although he’s not sure of the process, Ideson says he hopes to be apart of Canada’s 2014 Paralympic curling team.
“In my opinion, I honestly don’t foresee any changes (in the existing team), because the team we had played so well and the team dynamics was so great,” he said, “There was no drama, we were just as happy on the 15th day as we were the first day, which was really good; a lot of respect and a lot of respect for each other, which was really great to be a part of.”
Now that he has been home for a few weeks, and settled back into he routine, Ideson chuckled when asked where he keeps his gold medal.
“No, I’m not wearing it,” he said with a laugh. “My gold medal is with my trophy – I got a trophy which is a little curling rock made from the same rock that they make the curling stones from Scotland – it is together in the box. I’ve had to show them so often, that they’re now in my backpack so I have them with me all the time.
“The whole ordeal leading up to this experience was surreal. And being there was amazing, and having the opportunity to represent my country is something I never thought I’d experience, to be honest.”