Fourteen teams and only one gold medal: There will be action aplenty over the next five days at Boucherville’s Complexe sportif Duval Auto, where the Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship are being held. The event began on Friday as part of the 36th edition of the Défi sportif AlterGo.
The Québec team, which won the championship in 2013 but finished seventh last year, has a very specific objective for this year’s event. “We want to reclaim our title. We came here to win,” stated Carl Marquis, who, along with skip Benoit Lessard, François Lacourse, Johanne Mathieu and Christine Lavallée, is a member of the 2019 squad.
“I’m referring to the podium and the gold medal, but we have to take it one step at a time, of course,” he added. “First, we have to get through the pools and the first round of elimination.”
The Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship are back on the program at this year’s Défi sportif AlterGo and will be back again in 2020. Marquis and his teammates hope that all the parents and volunteers, who will get to watch Canada’s top curlers perform up close and in person, will be proud of the team. “Travelling is great, but it’s also nice to stay close to home. This is our community. The Défi sportif AlterGo is huge. It will be fun to show everyone the kinds of impressive performances that can take place in curling.”
Marquis’s teammate Johanne Mathieu is literally right at home here: She’s a member of the Boucherville curling club. “Representing my club at the national level fills me with confidence and pride. It’s very gratifying,” she said.
TWO QUÉBEC TEAMS IN THE RUNNING
The reason there are 14 teams in the running at the Canadian Championship is because the top three teams from the previous edition, plus the host province, are allowed to enter two teams each. Therefore, for the 2019 edition, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Québec are each represented by two teams in Boucherville.
In addition to fostering the development of the sport across the country, this formula allows as many teams as possible to experience the high calibre of the tournament. “Many of the teams that attend this event could compete at the World Championship or the Paralympic Games,” affirmed Marquis.
“The Canadian federation’s goal is to provide more teams with the opportunity to develop a passion for curling and to continue to improve in order to go even further in the years to come,” explained the Québécois.
In addition to the Québec team, which will represent the province as Québec 1, the Victoria curling club, from Québec City, is also in the running as Québec 2.
Skip Claude Brunet and Sébastien Boisvert already have some national competition experience under their belts but this is new territory for their teammates Michel Pelletier, Monique Martel and Mario Trudel.
“This is a great opportunity for us. It will be an enjoyable experience. It will enable us to see where we stand and to get a taste of the competition. I’m ready. I have to be. There are some great players here,” observed Brunet.
As luck would have it, the two Québec teams are in the same preliminary group and played each other on Friday afternoon on the first day of competition. “It’s too bad we’re in the same group, but we know each other so we were a little less nervous,” added Brunet.
Québec 2 came out with a surprise 9-4 victory over Québec 1.
Québec 1 had played another match earlier in the day against Ontario 1. It was a tight race right down to the very last stone, which gave the Ontarians a 5-4 win.
The 14 teams are divided into two groups. The top three teams from each group will get a bye to Tuesday’s quarter-finals.
While Saskatchewan is the defending champion, the bets are open as to who will go home wearing gold this year. It will all be decided at Wednesday’s final.
“That’s the beauty of curling, anything can happen!” concluded Marquis.