The 2022 Beijing Paralympics will feature only five sports, but there will be no shortage of compelling competitors. Before the opening ceremony in China on March 4, here are seven Canadian contenders to keep an eye on:
Mark Arendz (Para-Nordic Skiing)
Arendz is no stranger to the Paralympics, having competed in four of them.
“At each game, there’s a different vibe, a different vibe. I was at home in Vancouver, trying to get my feet wet. For me, Sochi was a watershed moment. It was the venue where I wished to perform. I was a little bummed when I left Sochi. But there was a strong drive for the next four years, culminating in the third Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which was a huge success,” Arendz remarked.
Because of the pandemic, the quadrennial leading up to Beijing was unlike any other. Still, Arendz said his experience with changing conditions helped him focus on limited travel benefits.
“Now we could just go train, remain at home, eat well, and just add to that basis that will be essential come Beijing,” he said.
Mac Marcoux (Alpine Skiing)
Marcoux, 24, maybe in line to succeed Arendz and McKeever in the ski race.
In the visually impaired category, the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. native, has won five Paralympic gold in just two games in the giant slalom, downhill, and super-G categories.
In Pyeongchang, Mac Marcoux sped to Canada’s first Paralympic gold. With a time of 1:23.93 seconds, the Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. native won gold in the men’s visually impaired downhill race.
Marcoux has been coached by competitive alpine skier Tristan Rodgers since 2018 and was crowned Canada’s top snow-sport athlete last season. Rodgers stated that the focus in Beijing would be on the power sport’s ability to bring people together.
Cindy Ouelett (Para-Nordic Skiing)
Ouellet has competed in pandemic Paralympics before. Just like the others, she is common amongst the fans of sports betting in Canada, who love her exceptional prowess in the field.
At Tokyo 2020, the 32-year-old Quebec City native was a member of Canada’s women’s wheelchair basketball squad. She’s now hoping to qualify for the Para Nordic Skiing World Championships in Beijing. After 2018, it would be her fifth Paralympics and her second of the winter sort.
Brittany Hudak (Para-Nordic Skiing)
Hudak, who was born without a portion of her left arm, was discovered as a Canadian Tire employee at the age of 18 by Colette Bourgonje, a 10-time Canadian Paralympic medalist.
Hudak, 28, now has a Paralympic medal after finishing third in the women’s 12.5-kilometer biathlon in Pyeongchang 2018.
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, native also works as a social worker at a residential group home for teenagers in the Calgary area.
Hudak was a member of a mixed relay team that took silver at the 2019 World Championships.
Ina Forrest (Wheelchair Curling)
The three-time Paralympic medalist is returning for her fourth Games, and she’s out for vengeance after finishing third in her first two outings.
In 2009, 2011, and 2013, Forrest, a 59-year-old from Armstrong, B.C., was a member of world-champion rinks.
However, Canada’s dominance in wheelchair curling, as well as the able-bodied version, is diminishing. The Canadian rink, coached by Mark Ideson, was eliminated in October’s quarterfinals of the world championships.
Forrest was named into the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame in 2016, after curling since 2004.
Brian McKeever (Para-Nordic Skiing)
The most decorated Winter Paralympian in Canadian history is back for one last time. McKeever, 42, declared in October 2020 that Beijing would be his sixth and final Olympic Games, following a career that included 17 medals, including a record-breaking 13 golds.
“As much as I enjoy it, I have to face the fact that I’m getting older, and my beard is getting longer and greyer every day – it’s time,” McKeever told Rocky Mountain Outlook when announcing his retirement.
Perhaps the most significant feat for the visually impaired athlete from Canmore, Alta., was being named to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic teams, making him the first Canadian to do so. He did not, however, participate in the Olympics.
McKeever has 20 world titles and was the opening ceremony flag-bearer in Pyeongchang, coached by Russell Kennedy and Graham Nishikawa.
Billy Bridges (Para Ice Hockey)
Bridges, 38, is one of Canada’s most accomplished para-ice hockey players of all time.
Bridges is a four-time world champion and the first Canadian to reach the 100-goal, 100-assist, and 200-points mark. She has three Paralympic medals (one of each color).
Even though he won his first world title in 2000, the Summerside, P.E.I. native language is far from finished. Bridges was one of two Canadians to score a hat trick in a recent thrashing of Korea, which was ranked fourth. Canada is rated second after the United States.
Bridges, born with a disability that limits his mobility, can nevertheless hit 80 mph with his slap shots.