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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Seven years after crash, Canadian wheelchair curler met boy who helped save him

By: Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Posted: 03/12/2014 10:26 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 03/12/2014 10:27 AM

SOCHI, Russia - It took Mark Ideson seven years to find the right words.

Pulled from the wreckage of the helicopter he was piloting after it plummeted into a field near Cambridge, Ont., back in 2007, he had never met the young boy who witnessed the accident and rushed to get help.

Ideson decided the time was right to meet Daniel Hermann before embarking on his journey to the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games as part of Canada's wheelchair curling team.

"Life after a spinal cord injury is difficult to begin with, so there was a lot of getting used to life the way it was," said Ideson, who was left an incomplete quadriplegic as a result of the crash. "Basically for that seven years I never knew what I was going to say to Daniel.

"I never knew what I could do for him to thank him."

The day came when Ideson invited Hermann, now 14, to his send-off party last month attended by 150 friends and family.

"I played it out in my mind 1,000 times since my accident," said the soft-spoken Ideson. "I just sort of went with what came to me. All I could say is 'Thank you. Thank you for reacting the way you did and giving me a chance to live my life with my wife and kids.'"

It wasn't long after the crash that Ideson decided he was going to make the most of his situation. While recovering in hospital for six months, the London, Ont., resident was visited by a number of wheelchair athletes who encouraged him to get active.

"The most important thing for me was learning about my new life from guys that had already been there. They taught me a lot of things that I never would have considered," said Ideson, who first got into wheelchair rugby before switching to curling. "I'm not going to live long enough to learn it all on my own so I learned as much as I could from them. It really gave me a boost to move forward and gave me confidence to live like this."

That confidence helped him become one of newest members of Canada's wheelchair curling team despite only picking up the sport after the 2010 Paralympics.

"He's a very special person and a great teammate," said Canadian coach Joe Rea. "The rest of the team has really embraced him and he's worked very hard to get to where he is today. It's all on him. He's really done a great job."

Ideson credits a television interview given by Canadian Olympian Jon Montgomery — who won gold in men's skeleton four years ago — with helping to propel him to Sochi.

"Jon just inspired me to try to play something at a higher level, try to represent my country," said Ideson. "I figured that if I was going to be sitting down, my chances of doing that were better than they ever were standing up."

Ideson played hockey and golf before his accident, but only curled recreationally.

"He was an athlete. I'm convinced with enough time you could teach a monkey to curl," said Canadian skip Jim Armstrong. "He's a guy that has — you run into it every once in a while — a sixth sense for the game. When you tell him something it gets locked in. He's got a real good future."
Ideson has played three of his rink's seven games so far at the Ice Cube Curling Center, including Wednesday's 10-4 victory over South Korea that moved Canada to 6-1.

"We're managing the ice, we're sticking together, we have each other's backs and we're having a good time. That's the most important thing," he said. "Sochi has been treating us really well. It's beyond my wildest dreams."

Although it didn't take Ideson long after his accident to decide he was going to stay active, getting the chance to represent his country at a Paralympics wasn't something he thought would be in the cards.
"It was the furthest thing from my mind. I'm honoured to be here," he said. "I'm lucky. You just never know. You never give up and you keep working hard."

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