It was not the triumphant return to competition they’d hoped for. But travelling to China and playing in their first competition in 20 months almost felt like a win for Team Canada anyway.
Canada dropped their opening game at the 2021 Kuntai Group World Wheelchair Curling Championship in Beijing, 6-4 to Team USA.
“It’s obviously not the start we’d hoped for,” said Mark Ideson, the Canadian skip, “But the fact that we were able to be out there competing after so long, it was actually really exciting for us. We’ll take what we can from that game, and try to build on it for the rest of the week.”
The Canadian squad, including Ideson (who skips but throws lead stones), Jon Thurston (throwing fourth stones), Ina Forrest (vice-skip, throwing third), Dennis Thiessen (second) were playing their first competitive game since the 2020 World Championship in March of last year; where they finished with a silver medal.
“We had a year and a half where we couldn’t get together to train, or to compete,” said Ideson. “So we’re a little behind where we would normally be. I think you’ll see our performance improve each day here, as we settle in.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Team Canada couldn’t even hold a proper training camp until August of 2021; more than a year since the team had last seen each other. After a few rushed weekend training sessions, they were back at the World Championship facing many teams who never had to interrupt their normal training routine.
“We know we’re at a bit of a disadvantage, considering the last year,” said Ideson. “But we’re confident that we’ll be able to raise our game to where it needs to be.”
The USA team skipped by Matthew Thums started the game with the hammer and quickly scored two. After a blank and a steal, the Americans were up 3-0 playing the fourth end, when Canada got on the board with a deuce of their own. After trading singles in the fifth and sixth ends, USA scored 2 in the 7th to take a three point lead to the eighth.
With a number of rocks in play, both in the house and in front, Canadian fourth-thrower Thurston need a miracle angle-raise takeout to force a tie, and extra end. It was off the mark, and Canada was only able to score one.
Canada will look to recover on Day 2 with games against Switzerland and the host, China. The 11-game round robin will determine which six of the 12-team field will move on to playoffs.