Local wheelchair curling champ enters hall of fame
Sonja Gaudet chooses not to remember the name of her horse that reared up and fell over backwards, leaving her a paraplegic 16 years ago.
Instead, the 46-year-old mother of two has moved on and since won two Paralympic Winter Games gold medals and is now headed to the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame.
She and Cathy King of Edmonton will receive their awards during the Canadian Curling Association’s (CCA) annual meetings in June.
“It totally comes as a surprise to me, for sure,” said Gaudet, who was told about the honour before helping Team Canada win the world wheelchair title last weekend in Sochi, Russia.
“I mean, I’ve been treated like royalty by the CCA from day one and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being an athlete on the national wheelchair curling team. I am thrilled.”
Gaudet was lead when Canada struck gold in 2006 at Torino, Italy, with skip Chris Daw and 2010 at Vancouver with skip Jim Armstrong.
An Argyle Secondary grad born in North Vancouver, Gaudet has lived in Vernon since 1988. She blocks out what some may call a handicap during competition.
“I take the overwhelming factor and park it,” she told The Morning Star. “It’s like doing any job. You do it the best that you can.”
An ambassador with the Rick Hansen Foundation, Gaudet was looking for a sport after her accident when she discovered curling. Her motto is ‘Always Believe in Yourself.’ She and her fun-loving husband, Dan, have a daughter, Alysha, 22, and a son, Colten, 18.
Gaudet just won her third world wheelchair championship (along with Armstrong’s Ina Forrest) at the Ice Cube Curling Centre in Sochi. She also won gold in 2009 in Vancouver and 2011 in the Czech Republic, all with Armstrong as the skip.
Gaudet becomes the first athlete inducted into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame based on her wheelchair curling achievements (Armstrong also is a member, but was inducted prior to taking up wheelchair curling).
“Our sport has just moved forward in leaps and bounds,” said Gaudet. “The gap between the grassroots and our level is nowhere near what it was a few years ago. The skill level of our sport and the awareness of our sport has just grown tremendously. And this honour is definitely an indication of that.”
In the final last Saturday, Canada iced Sweden’s Jalle Jungnell 4-3 after losing twice to Sweden earlier in the week.
“All four of us decided to show up and play together as a team,” chuckled Gaudet. “The experience Jim, Ina and I have had together helped us hang in there at the end.”
Gaudet said four of the five major Sochi Winter Games venues are complete, including the ice hockey and speed skating centres.
“They are working around the clock. There is crazy construction going on. It’s going to be a huge wow factor when it’s done.”
King made history in 2012 by becoming the first skip to win Canadian curling championships at the junior (back-to-back in 1977 and 1978), women’s (1998) and senior levels (2012).
A bronze-medallist at the 1998 Ford World Women’s Championship in Kamloops, King will once again wear the maple leaf on the international stage when she plays at the 2013 World Senior Women’s Championship, April 13-20 in Fredericton, N.B.