Canada's golden curling streak at Paralympics ends in contentious fashion

The Pyeongchang Games will be the first time Canada leaves a Paralympics without a wheelchair curling gold following a contentious semifinal loss to China that went down to the last stone.

Rink to regroup for bronze after losing controversial semifinal

Members of Canada's wheelchair curling team console each other after a semifinal loss to China ended their hopes of a golden four-peat. (CBC Sports)

Sometimes curling teams are on the wrong side of the inch. That was the case four years ago for China at the Paralympics.

Today, it was Canada's turn.

The semifinal was a rematch from four years ago when Canada played China in the semis in Sochi. On that day, China's skip Wang Haitao was heavy with his last rock in the final end to give Canada a 4-3 win. Canada would go on to win a third-straight Paralympic gold medal.

Today, Haitao was faced with having to make his last shot against Canada yet again to win the game. Wang was looking at two Canadian stones in the four-foot and needed to play a tough tap back for the win. 

It was absolutely perfect — redemption four years in the making. The win sent the Chinese team into a frenzy while a disappointed Canadian squad watched them celebrate.

China scored a single in the eighth and final end to beat Canada 4-3. It marks the first time a Canadian rink won't win Paralympic wheelchair curling gold. 2:44

"I didn't even look at that shot," Canadian skip Mark Ideson said. "I thought he'd play the double all day long."

"Good on him. He called it, made it and they have a chance to win gold."

Canada and China played a relatively open game throughout, throwing takeouts up and down the sheet. With the score tied 3-3 in the final end, China capitalized with the last rock advantage.

But it was a game that could have gone either way — and Ideson knows it. 

"This is sport. Anything can happen. We put ourselves in a good position to win gold and it just didn't happen for us," he said.

China moves on to play Norway for gold on Saturday at 1:35 a.m. ET, while Canada plays South Korea in the bronze medal game Friday at 8:35 p.m. ET.

Burned rock controversy 

Drama ensued late in the seventh end with the score tied 3-3. Canadian third Ina Forrest was playing a takeout on the Chinese stone; she made the hit, sending China's rock into a Canadian stone on the edge of the 12-foot and then into Ideson's wheelchair. 

The rock came to an abrupt halt when it hit Ideson's chair. It was a burned rock, but it appeared to be spinning out of the rings.

It also wasn't the closest rock to the button, but Haitao pushed it forward so that it was. The move brought the officials onto the ice to discuss.

Controversy erupted in the seventh end of the Canada-China wheelchair curling semifinal. After Canada burned a Chinese stone, Chinese skip Wang Haitao opted to keep the stone in the house. 7:43

After a lengthy delay — and the officials trying to explain to Haitao the rock was going out — the Chinese skip decided to leave the rock in the back of the rings.

"I don't think it affected the end. It was his call," Ideson said. "I think it would have went out but it wasn't up to me."

"It was my fault and he had the choice."

Curling rules clearly state it's up to the non-offending team to decide where the rock was going to end up, but curling etiquette is another thing entirely.

"The officials knew it was going to go out. They were just trying to make the right decision," Ideson said. "They said it was going to go out."

Ideson said while it didn't affect the way the end played out — a blank — he said it did impact what shot he played with his last stone.

Ready to compete for bronze

While disappointed by the loss, the Canadian team is now refocusing for the bronze medal game against Korea.  

It will be the first time Canada leaves a Paralympic Games without a curling gold; the country was the three-time defending champions coming into Pyeongchang.

But the rink isn't losing sight of what a medal would mean. 

"We'll pat each other on the back and come back ready to play," Ideson said. "We have a lot to be proud of. We'll go see our families and get some rest [and] nutrition."

Second Dennis Thiessen was a part of the gold-winning team four years ago. He knows what the thrill of victory is like and while it won't be the colour he was hoping for, the Sanford, Man., native would love nothing more to bring home another medal for Canada.

"We're going in there as if we're going for the gold medal. If we can win a bronze we're going to be proud," he said. 

Then there was 57-year-old Marie Wright from Moose Jaw, Sask., who came off the ice still smiling. The single mother of four, who is a paraplegic, has been through a lot to get here, but kept perspective after the loss. 

"Sometimes it just doesn't go your way," the first-time Paralympian said. "We'll be ready for the bronze and never give up."

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