Waterloo Region Record
By Christine Rivet
To absolutely no one's surprise, one of the planet's most-decorated wheelchair curlers will lead Canada into the Sochi Paralympics.
Cambridge resident and Galt Country Club member Jim Armstrong, a Canadian Curling Hall of Fame inductee, will skip the red and white's foursome as Canada vies for an unprecedented third consecutive gold, it was announced at a Friday news conference.
Armstrong, a wise-cracking six-time Brier contestant through his able-bodied curling career, was forced out of the game temporarily because of a car accident and subsequent knee troubles in 2004.
It's his healthy sense of humour which has helped him prevail, Armstrong said over the phone from Winnipeg.
"It was quite a surprise, ha, ha," Armstrong said Friday of his selection to the Canadian team, though he has known he would be going to Sochi for months.
After his accident and at the request of a friend, Armstrong tried wheelchair curling, where players use a stick to send stones down the ice. There is no sweeping.
The retired dentist, now 63 and originally from British Columbia, was forced to retire from his profession after that fateful car accident, too.
He takes aim at his second straight Paralympic gold after capturing the top prizes in Vancouver in 2010 and at the world wheelchair curling championship in Sochi at the Paralympic venue last February.
Armstrong's world championship team — including vice Dennis Thiessen of Sanford, Man., second Ina Forrest, of Armstrong, B.C., lead Sonja Gaudet, of Vernon, B.C., and alternate, London, Ont. resident Mark Ideson — returns intact for the upcoming Paralympics.
"This is without a doubt the most experienced and accomplished squad that Canada could possibly field in wheelchair curling," Team Canada Chef de Mission Ozzie Sawicki told reporters at the Winnipeg news conference held during Canada's Olympic curling trials.
"They have proven consistently that they are at the top of their game and I can't wait to watch them take on the world in Sochi.
Armstrong said his bond with his teammates is a deep one.
"The wheelchair culture is a special group. It's a tight club. It's a fairly new sport so (his teammates) are young.
"I try to keep them loose and laughing and if that fails, I could always let the air out of their tires," he said.
Armstrong was unwittingly embroiled in a fake Viagra smuggling scheme across the American-Canadian border in 2010.
He was fined $30,000 by a Seattle judge at the time and chose not to answer questions about the matter on Friday.
Armstrong did thank the Canadian Curling Association for its unwavering support through the firstname.lastname@example.org