Canadian curlers win bronze — and steal fans' hearts in the process
Emotional team celebrates with family, friends after final game
The Canadian wheelchair curlers earned the nickname "The Comeback Kids" after their impressive ability to stage remarkable rallies to win games at the Paralympics.
They never quit when falling behind and found ways to victory, mostly by stealing points from their opposition.
When it came to the bronze medal game against South Korea in Pyeongchang, The Comeback Kids didn't actually need to come back at all. However, they once again stole their way to victory.
Marie Wright, Dennis Thiessen, Ina Forrest and Mark Ideson came out firing, stealing two points in the first end and never looked back on their way to a 5-3 bronze-medal win.
"We really played for each other out there. I've never been more proud to wear this maple leaf," Ideson said after the win.
In a way the team had to come back one more time — from the devastation of not winning gold.
"Bronze is the game nobody wants to play in. You want the gold," Ideson said. "So it's really hard to get up for this game after the disappointment of losing the semifinal."
"But we were able to fight. It's special."
Family on and off the ice
After the game, the team's families and friends — resplendent in red and white — cheered wildly in the crowd, waving Canadian flags. The curlers wouldn't leave the ice. They waved back at their families with tears in their eyes.
It was an outpouring of emotion from all.
"We're just all a family," Wright said. "Our families became a family and on the ice we were just like a family. It's going to be hard to go back home."
One big family. <br><br>Now they’re all together celebrating curling bronze here in PyeongChang. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbccurl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cbccurl</a> <a href="https://t.co/kOg2novsWW">pic.twitter.com/kOg2novsWW</a>—@Devin_Heroux
In the process of winning bronze, this team — including alternate Jamie Anseeuw and coach Wayne Kiel — also stole the hearts of fans inside the Gangneung Curling Venue and across Canada. They smiled throughout their games. They laughed with each other and their opposition. They had fun in the heat of competition and supported one another throughout.
"It's a great group of curlers. It's so easy. It doesn't matter how you throw we're together all the time," Forrest said.
Rock stars. <br><br>The Canadian wheelchair curlers now taking photo after photo with Korean fans after winning bronze. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbccurl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cbccurl</a> <a href="https://t.co/k6ORuvpAFQ">pic.twitter.com/k6ORuvpAFQ</a>—@Devin_Heroux
Against all odds
Wright fought back tears after the game and was still smiling. She didn't stop smiling throughout the entire tournament. The 57-year-old making her first appearance at the Paralympics lived out her dream in South Korea — it was a long and difficult journey getting to this point.
"It's so amazing. I can't even describe it," she said. "I've never been on a podium in my life."
In August 1988, Wright was in a horrific accident on a rural road in Saskatchewan. It left her a paraplegic. Her two youngest daughters as well as her niece and nephew were also in the vehicle. Her youngest daughter was just one at the time and suffered a serious head injury.
To make matters worse, two years after the accident Wright's husband left her — as the single mother of four daughters was adjusting to life in a wheelchair.
But she never gave up and is now a Paralympic medallist. Her two oldest daughters, Kyla and Tara, were in the crowd cheering her on throughout the competition.
Marie Wright with her family — daughter Kyla still here watching and soaking up this moment with her mom. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbccurl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cbccurl</a> <a href="https://t.co/VVdKBViu9H">pic.twitter.com/VVdKBViu9H</a>—@Devin_Heroux
She was thinking about all four of her daughters after the game.
"I'm so proud of them. They're my heroes. They make my life worthwhile. I'm so glad they could be here to share this all with me."
'This was for Canada'
The team so badly wanted to bring home gold for Canada. After they lost the semifinal to eventual champion China, they had a team meeting, hugged one another and refocused on winning bronze.
"We picked each other up. I'm so proud of us all," Ideson said.
Today's win was about getting the medal for Canada. Thiessen was part of the team that won it all four years ago — but he says this one means more to him.
Dennis Thiessen feeling the love from his family. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbccurl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cbccurl</a> <a href="https://t.co/tbeozjpKeT">pic.twitter.com/tbeozjpKeT</a>—@Devin_Heroux
"It was a very special moment. To go out there and win bronze feels even more exciting for me than Sochi. I never thought I'd be out here today. I played my heart out and that team is my second family."
"This was for Canada."