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Monday, March 18, 2013

Ideson sets sights on Sochi

By Todd Devlin Metro London

The highs and lows of Mark Ideson’s life over the last six years should be easy to pinpoint.

The ultimate low was when the now-36-year-old married father of two was laid out in a hospital bed six years ago with 29 broken bones, including two in his neck that caused spinal cord damage and technically left him a quadriplegic.

A helicopter crash had sent Ideson to the hospital, where he spent six weeks before moving to St. Joseph’s Health Care’s rehabilitation centre for another five months.

A licensed pilot for seven years, Ideson crashed his helicopter into a field west of Cambridge during a test flight on Feb. 2, 2007. Doctors gave him the worst-case scenario for a prognosis: he’d never walk again.

But he has defied many of the initial prognoses. He quickly gained the use of his arms and legs, and although he’s confined to a wheelchair, Ideson is able to walk with the aid of a walker.

And intensive physiotherapy over the years has allowed the Londoner to participate in many of the activities he enjoyed in his pre-accident life, most notably the sport of curling — which brings us to Ideson’s ultimate high over the last six years.

That occurred last month when he travelled to Sochi, Russia, and competed in the 2013 World Wheelchair Curling Championships alongside the Canadian team that won its third gold medal in the last four years. The Londoner, who served as an alternate on the team, said the experience was an unforgettable one.

“A few of the highlights for me were meeting players from across the world, and the excitement and enthusiasm of the volunteers,” he said, adding that he’ll never forget throwing his first rock in the international competition.

The Canadian team, led by skip Jim Armstrong, played 12 games in all, beating Team Sweden 4-3 in the final. Ideson saw action in only one game as the alternate, but was thrilled to contribute to the victory.

“I felt extremely proud and honoured,” he said. “And I felt fortunate to be surrounded by such a positive and supportive group of teammates and staff.”

Prior to his accident, Ideson had curled able-bodied with his friends in a league in his hometown of Parry Sound. He has now been curling in a wheelchair at the Ilderton Curling Club for three years.

In 2011, he skipped his Ilderton team to a third-place finish at the Ontario Wheelchair Curling Championships, and then won the same event in 2012. At last year’s Canadian Championships in Thunder Bay, he earned a bronze medal.

Now, he’s hoping to return to the international stage next year when the Canadian team heads back to the Ice Cube Curling Center in Sochi for the 2014 Paralympic Games.

“I’d love to have the opportunity to go back,” Ideson said. “The team hasn’t been announced yet, but all I can do is continue to practice. I’m going to work hard and be physically and psychologically prepared for whatever the coaches and team require of me.”

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