A trio of Greater Trail Paralympians was honoured with a “Welcome Home” ceremony on Friday at the CIBC branch in downtown Trail.
As part of the bank’s nation-wide association with the Canadian Paralympic Committee, sit-skier Kimberly Joines, snowboarder Ian Lockey and national sledge hockey team head coach Mike Mondin, were saluted for their efforts at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
CIBC branch manager Melissa Ganzeveld greeted the Paralympians on behalf of the bank, which served up coffee and treats to the crowd that arrived to get a chance to meet and congratulate the Canadian contingent.
Highlighting the event was Joines, who brought her bronze medal she captured in the sit-ski slalom event.
The heavy medal was a popular conversation piece as well wishers gathered around to put their hands on Paralympic glory and pose for pictures with the athletes.
Mondin’s sledge hockey team also returned home with a bronze medal following its win over Norway. However, coaches are not awarded medals.
“I’d love to have one of them,” admitted Mondin. “They’re absolutely beautiful.”
Both medal victories provided some redemption for the disappointment Mondin and Joines felt after the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver.
Mondin’s sledge hockey team finished fourth in 2010 while an injury prevented Joines from competing after winning a bronze in the 2006 Paralympics in Torino, Italy.
Joines wait for redemption actually was even longer than expected. She was initially in line for a silver medal but the judges reviewed a protest from a German skier and 24 hours later upheld the protest and relegated Joines to third place.
“It wasn’t what I was shooting for,” said Joines, echoing what most high-performance athletes would say.
However, she admitted the sad part was, due to the protest, not getting the full enjoyment from the medal and flower podium ceremony. Because of the delay in the final medal placements, the ceremony was held at a later date and, due to the men’s team racing at that time, it lacked her teammates and Canadian support cheering her effort.
Joines was aiming for a gold medal in her final race, the giant slalom. She posted the fastest time on her first run but “an equipment malfunction,” left her unable to complete the second run.
“I left a bit disappointed,” she said. “But it gives me motivation to try in another four years.”
Lockey is hoping he has enough for another shot at the Paralympics in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. He finished 21st in the men’s para snowboard cross standing event in Sochi.
“I would like to try again,” said Lockey. “I’ll be 44 so the age thing is not an impossibility.”
However, he acknowledged that it’s a huge financial expense to make a four-year commitment to return to the Games. Nevertheless, the memory will be etched in his mind forever.
“You get to live the rock-star lifestyle for a little while,” he joked.
Mondin has no firm plans on the next Paralympics.
He said Hockey Canada has yet to complete its review and make any decisions on the future.
Although some would consider a bronze in hockey a disappointment for any Canadian team, Mondin said he and the team refused to look at it that way.
“Our expectations were to win a gold but we’re really proud we won the bronze,” he said. “It was a tough medal to win but our guys did it.”
Canada dominated the round robin but fell to the U.S. in the semifinal despite controlling the play.
“They beat us fair and square. We had to accept it and move on.”
Things appeared to be repeating itself as Canada missed several great early chances in the bronze-medal game against Norway before eventually finding the back of the net en route to a 3-0 win.
It was a win to savour said Mondin.
“We never talked about (the loss in) Vancouver leading up to Sochi in our preparation or the hat trick (Canada winning men, women and sledge hockey gold medals).
“But when it was over our team captain (Greg Westlake) said ‘We’re going to cherish this forever. We didn’t get it in Vancouver but now we have this medal and we’ll never forget it.”
All three will also remember their experience in Sochi, despite the warnings and concerns prior to and during the Olympics and Paralympics.
“It was a first class event,” said Mondin. “Everything about it from food service to volunteers to the residence where the coaches and athletes stayed, it was all first class.”
He said some family and friends were a little apprehensive about the trip to Russia.
“My wife was a little tentative. But once they got there they knew everything was good.”
Lockey likened the people and geography to the Kootenays.
“It was amazing. It was so beautiful. Really it was so much like the Kootenays.”
Joines added the volunteers helped dispel the image of the stoic Russian people.
“They met us with giant hugs and high fives. They bought into the whole culture of the Games.”
And on Friday it was a chance for local fans to also share their hugs and high fives to a trio of Greater Trail Paralympians.