Canadian curler Mark Ideson is the living embodiment of grit, hard work, and determination.

A little more than 16 years removed from a major helicopter crash that almost killed him, Ideson reflects on his second chance at life in a recent interview with The Highlander. While he is confined to a wheelchair, diagnosed with quadriplegia after breaking 29 bones in the February 2007 accident – including shattering his legs and pelvis and breaking his neck in two places – Ideson has spent every day since chasing his dreams and living his best life as one of the country’s top Paralympic athletes.

He’ll be at the Haliburton Curling Club Saturday as the featured guest at the 44th annual Haliburton Home and Cottage show.

After cracking Team Canada in 2013, Ideson won mixed team gold at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games, following up with bronze medals in Pyeongchang in 2018 and Beijing in 2022.

“I was just lost after the accident, looking for something I could sink my teeth into. I spent months in rehab, but it wasn’t until watching the documentary Murderball about full-contact wheelchair rugby that I started to come out the other side,” Ideson said.

While that endeavour didn’t last, largely because he was competing against amputees and paraplegics with full use of their upper body, it gave Ideson the drive he needed to find success elsewhere.

He remembers watching the 2010 Paralympic Games in Vancouver, specifically following the journey of Jon Montgomery, who won gold in the men’s skeleton event.

“I remember thinking he was a superhero. It was so inspiring and really pushed me to find something I could excel at to get to the world stage,” Ideson said.

He started curling later that year. There was a learning curve, but given he’d played as an able-bodied adult he picked things up quickly. After a year of continuous improvement, he attended a Team Canada curling camp in Grimsby, ON in 2011. That put him on the national program’s radar and, after sticking with it, he was named to the mixed squad ahead of the 2013 World Championships in Sochi, where he won a gold medal.

The trick was repeated 12 months later, when Ideson appeared in three games en-route to claiming Paralympic gold.

“It was very emotional, because not a lot of great things had happened to me after my accident. There was a lot of heartache and tears, so to have that moment was just incredible. It was the single greatest honour of my life, being up there on the podium and hearing the national anthem blaring. But there was also a sense of unfinished business,” Ideson said. “I didn’t get to play in the gold medal game, so I left hungry for more. I made it my mission to make the starting lineup ahead of the next games.”

He did just that, serving as skip in Pyeongchang, South Korea. He led his team to nine wins out of 11 in round robin play, setting up a semi-final showdown with China. Canada lost a close 4-3 game to the eventual gold medal winners, securing a podium finish with a 5-3 victory over the host nation in the bronze medal game.

Ideson was back for another crack at Beijing in 2022. Canada snuck into the semifinals as the fourth seed after going 7-3 in round robin. They came face-to-face once again with the Chinese, who prevailed with a 9-5 win. Canada would go on to claim a second straight Paralympic bronze after Ideson and his team bested Slovakia 8-3 for the bronze.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have come as far as I have. My biggest takeaway of the last 15 or so years, and what I tell people who are recovering from different things – when one door closes, another one opens,” Ideson said. “I loved my job. I loved flying helicopters. But when that door closed suddenly, I was able to find a new opportunity to pursue.”

He competed in the 2023 World Championships in Richmond, British Columbia in March, where his team came away with silver after being bested by, you guessed it, China in the final.

“We definitely have a bit of a rivalry going on. They’re an incredible team,” Ideson said. “I’m busy now trying to keep myself in shape and focusing on the 2026 Paralympics in Italy. Appearing in four straight games would be something really special to me.”

Ideson is looking forward to coming to Haliburton, sharing his story, and giving people a chance to see his collection of medals. His appearance was arranged by his brother, Joel, who lives in the area.

“It’s not every day you get to see a Paralympic gold medal up close and in-person. I’m excited to do this. Hearing that it’s a fundraiser for the local curling club, this is a great opportunity to give back to the sport that has given me so much,” he said.

Ideson noted he’ll also be bringing a signed Team Canada jersey that he’ll be raffling off.

He’ll be at the Haliburton Curling Club booth from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.