The 10th Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championship gets underway Monday at the RA Centre in Ottawa.
Ten teams will compete in a round robin from March 25-29, leading to the Page playoff system (1 vs 2, winner to final, loser to semifinal; 3 vs 4, winner to semifinal, loser eliminated) on Saturday, March 30, with the semifinal (10 a.m. EDT) and final (3 p.m. EDT) scheduled for Sunday, March 31.
The roster includes a number of Canadian and world champions. Back to defend their Canadian title won last year in Thunder Bay are Saskatchewan’s Darwin Bender, from the Callie Curling Club in Regina, along with teammates Gil Dash, Marie Wright and Larry Schrader.
In last year’s final, Bender defeated Alberta’s Bruno Yizek, 7-6 in an extra end. Yizek, representing the Calgary Curling Club, is also returning with his team of Jack Smart, Martin Purvis and Anne Hibberd intact.
Yizek was the alternate for Canada (skip Jim Armstrong) when winning gold medals at both the 2010 Paralympic Games in Vancouver and the 2011 World Wheelchair Curling Championship in Prague.
British Columbia will be directed by two-time Canadian champion Gary Cormack, whose team represents both the Marpole Curling Club of Vancouver and Richmond Curling Club, while his third, Frank La Bounty, is a three-time Canadian champion.
Manitoba’s Chris Sobkowicz of Winnipeg returns with third Dennis Thiessen and lead Melissa Lecuyer, who teamed to win the 2011 Canadian title in Edmonton.
Sobkowicz, who curls out of Assiniboine Memorial, was the alternate for Canada (skip Jim Armstrong) when the team captured a gold medal at the 2009 World Wheelchair Curling Championship in Vancouver. Thiessen played third for Canada (skip Jim Armstrong) when the team won gold last month at the 2013 World Wheelchair Curling Championship in Sochi, Russia.
Rounding out the field are New Brunswick (skip Michael Fitzgerald of Saint John), Newfoundland/Labrador (Joanne MacDonald of St. John’s), Northern Ontario (Gino Sonego of Thunder Bay), Nova Scotia (Trendal Hubley-Bolivar of Lower Sackville), Ontario (Ken Gregory of Bradford) and Quebec (Benoît Lessard of Magog).
Since the inaugural Canadian championship in 2004, British Columbia has four wins— in 2007 (skip Darryl Neighbour), 2008 and 2009 (Armstrong) and in 2010 (Cormack). Team Canada (skip Chris Dawe) has three victories while Manitoba and Saskatchewan have each won once.