Wheelchair curler Dennis Thiessen, of Sanford, was beaming as he was greeted by family, friends and supporters at Winnipeg’s James Richardson International Airport on March 18.
The 52-year-old proudly wore the gold medal he and his teammates won at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games, beating Russia 8-3 in the finals on March 15.
Thiessen said he’d never experienced the excitement of representing Canada at the Paralympics.
"We were asked to choose a word at the beginning of the Games, and I chose ‘magical,’" he said.
This wasn’t the first time Thiessen, who was vice-skip on Canada’s team — which also included skip Jim Armstrong from Cambridge, Ont., second Ina Forrest from Armstrong, B.C., lead Sonja Gaudet from Vernon, B.C., and alternate Mark Ideson from London, Ont. — had competed at Sochi’s Ice Cube facility. The team captured gold at the 2013 World Wheelchair Curling Championship, which was held at the venue in February 2013.
Thiessen said he felt their toughest competition at the Paralympics came from China, which they narrowly defeated 5-4 in the semifinal round.
"China is a young team and they weren’t quitters," he said, adding he believes the Chinese team will be a dominant force in future wheelchair curling events.
As well as facing strong opponents, Thiessen said another major challenge came from the ice surface, which was in rough shape when they first began curling in the Games on March 8. However, conditions improved throughout the week, and the ice was in good shape for the playoffs.
Interviewed on March 20, Thiessen said he was still getting over some jet lag, but is very pleased with the warm response he’s enjoyed since he returned home.
"The support that I received from Manitobans was overwhelming," he said.
With more local public events planned, the excitement isn’t over yet for Thiessen. He will also be competing on Manitoba’s team in the Canadian Wheelchair
Championship, which will be held in Boucherville, Que. from April 28 to May 4.