Josh Dueck wins Paralympic silver on 10-year anniversary of accident
Josh Dueck of Canada races to win his silver medal in downhill, sitting skiing event at the 2014 Winter Paralympic, Saturday, March 8, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, March 8, 2014 7:42AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, March 8, 2014 4:19PM EST
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Josh Dueck now has reason to smile when the calendar flips to March 8.
Racing on the 10-year anniversary of the accident that left him in a wheelchair, the Canadian sit-skier won silver in the men's downhill Saturday at the Sochi Winter Paralympic Games.
"That one's going to take a while to sink in. I've thought about that a lot over the last couple of weeks and fortunately was able to forget about it today," said Dueck, who was injured after overshooting a demonstration jump back in 2004. "Ten years ago today I broke my back. It was a very powerful moment in time and so was today. I think it's a matter of coming around full circle again. There's a lot of energy in that. There's a lot of emotion and energy from that experience. Some of it still resonates deeply.
"Moving forward is very important in anything we do in life and here's another example of that."
Dueck, who also won silver in giant slalom four years ago at the Vancouver Paralympics, finished Saturday's race in a time of one minute 24.19 seconds.
The 33-year-old from Kimberley, B.C., pulled out a picture of his baby daughter race that he tucks inside his racing suit and spoke about the joy in his life since her birth last year.
"She sits on my heart everyday. I come up here and she's with me and she gives me a little bit of strength," said Dueck. "The innocence of youth allows me to channel that energy through because you gets so hyped.
"She's a conduit to let some of that energy permeate and some of it flow right through. Pretty cool to have her along with me."
Japan's Akira Kano won gold with a time of 1:23.80, while fellow countryman Takeski Suzuki was third in 1:24.75. Calgary's Kurt Oatway finished fifth in 1:25.46, with Caleb Brousseau of Terrace, B.C., sixth in 1:25.62.
Earlier in the day, 16-year-old Mac Marcoux of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and guide Robin Femy of Mont Tremblant, Que., won bronze in the men's visually impaired downhill race with a time of 1:23.02.
The balmy conditions at Rosa Khotur made for soft snow and a lot of crashes. In all, nine of the 22 competitors entered in the men's sit-ski failed to complete the course, while one did not start.
Tyler Walker of the United States was involved in a scary crash and had to be airlifted by helicopter off the mountain. U.S. Paralympics later tweeted that was conscious and in stable condition.
Dueck had to wait for his turn down the course after another crash ahead of him, but said the delay gave him time to think.
"It allowed the energy build and then let it go through and build and let it go through," said Dueck. "There was a lot of really positive energy. I could feel everybody at home. I was thinking a lot about my family.
"I took some and chances and I got pretty lucky. Pretty sure I've got some angels on my side for some of those gates that I was just clipping."
Dueck, who started sixth and led after his run, thought he might be able to hang on for gold with the course getting chewed up and the sun beating down on the mushy snow.
"I had hope with all the delays and all the snow softening," he said. "I thought there was a chance that it might stick. I'm not disappointed at all because Akira is probably the most consistent speed skier on the circuit and definitely a threat every day."
Meanwhile, Marcoux continued a meteoric rise in the para-alpine world that has surprised even himself.
Asked earlier in the week if he ever thought he would be in this position after taking up the sport just eight years ago, he replied: "Not even a little bit. No way. We were shooting for one Paralympics if we possibly could -- work as hard as we can and see if we could get there. No way did I think it would come so fast."
The cool-beyond-his-years Marcoux burst onto the scene in the 12 months and reached the podium at the Sochi Games even though his regular guide and brother B.J. Marcoux is out with a back injury. That meant that Femy, who usually races with Chris Williamson, switched over to race with Marcoux, while Williamson's old guide, Nick Brush, came out of retirement and made the trip to Sochi.
"I'm so excited, so stoked right now I can't even explain. It's insane," said Mac Marcoux, who finished second in giant slalom at last year's world championship. "We threw down a decent run. I'm really excited about it and it worked out for the best."
Spain's Yon Santacana Maiztegui was first in a time of 1:21.76, followed by Slovakia's Miroslav Haraus (1:22.01).
"When I was coming down on the first pitch I kind of felt that the nerves got to me a little bit, I choked almost," said Marcoux. "Halfway through the run I was like 'I don't know if this is going to be good enough."'
But it was, and Marcoux's first Paralympic medal was also the first for Femy, who said the result was even more rewarding considering the shuffle the team had to make two weeks ago because of B.J. Marcoux's injury.
"Really unreal feeling," said the 24-year-old Femy, who communicates with Marcoux using a radio on the course. "Especially with that last-minute change that we've been able to really get that connection."
Canada's alpine team provided 13 of the country's 19 medals in Vancouver, but three significant retirements left a gaping hole in terms of athletes with Paralympic podium finishes to their name. Lauren Woolstencroft, who dominated with five gold medals in 2010, Viviane Forest (one gold, three silver, one bronze) and Karolina Wisniewska (two bronze) all retired after those Games.
Canada has set a goal of finishing top-3 in gold medals in Sochi, and although there weren't any on Saturday -- biathlete Mark Arendz of Hartsville, P.E.I., added a silver in the men's 7.5-kilometre standing competition -- the results were encouraging for alpine coach Jean-Sebastien Labrie, who has been careful to temper expectations.
"It was a good day. We knew we had some chances and the guys skied hard, they skied really well and I'm glad to see the intention was there," said Labrie. "A day like this, there's a lot of crashes. It's not easy conditions but our guys were on the money and we're pretty proud of it."