03/04/2014 02:26 EST | Updated 03/05/2014 09:59 EST

Canadian Paralympic Team Gunning For Gold In Sochi


There’s a fix in store for those experiencing Olympics withdrawal. The Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Games start March 7 and run until the 16th, with 54 of Canada’s finest Paralympians taking part.

While many of the athletes are Paralympic veterans, such as para-alpine skier Chris Williamson, who will be competing for the fourth and likely last time, Team Canada has several new athletes this year who are vying for medals.

This year, the 10-day-long Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi will include six sports – para-alpine skiing, biathlon, para-nordic skiing, sledge hockey and wheelchair curling, and para-snowboarding making its debut.

“I am particularly looking forward to see how athletes perform in this exciting new discipline and believe it will prove extremely popular with spectators and TV viewers alike,” said Xavier Gonzalez, CEO of the International Paralympic Committee, when the decision was made in 2012.

There are high expectations for new and returning athletes to live up to Canada’s Vancouver 2010 Paralympics performance, which was the best in its history. Canada placed third in the medal count with a total of 19 medals, including 10 gold medals. Russia and Germany topped the standings at 38 and 24 medals respectively.

Of course, these Games will be taking place amidst a difficult political climate in Russia, and Canadian, American and British government officials have already said they will be boycotting and refusing to attend the Games due to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Athletes from the three countries, however, are still attending. Canadian athletes have been arriving over the past week and settling into the athlete’s village in Sochi. The Canadian Paralympic Committee has also been active on their Twitter account as athletes warm up for competition as scheduled. As reported by Global News, the committee holds that their business is sport and not politics.

Our athletes, meanwhile, seem to be planning to give us much to cheer about. Wondering who to watch out for? Here are 15 up-and-coming Canadians who are in top shape to bring a medal home from the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games.

Canadian Paralympians To Watch

Mark Ideson; Twitter

Age: 37

From: London, Ont.

Sport: Wheelchair curling

Ideson decided to take up wheelchair curling in 2010 so he could represent Canada on the world stage. Since then, he’s won provincial and national championships; in 2013, he helped Canada win first place in the World Wheelchair Curling Championships.

Dennis Thiessen

Age: 52

From: Sanford, Man.

Sport: Wheelchair curling

These will be Thiessen’s first Paralympic Games, but he’s already helped Canada win the 2013 World Wheelchair Curling Championships, and three consecutive Canadian National Wheelchair Curling bronze medals from 2009-2011.

Tyler McGregor; Twitter

Age: 19

From: Forest, Ont.

Sport: Sledge hockey

McGregor is the youngest member of Canada’s sledge hockey team and made his debut in 2012. He already has the 2013 IPC World Championship under this belt.

Adam Dixon; Twitter

Age: 24

From: Barrie, Ont.

Sport: Sledge hockey

Dixon helped bag the IPC World Championship in 2008. He was on the Vancouver Paralympic that finished in fourth place, but since then he’s won gold in the 2013 world championships.

Brittany Hudak

Age: 20

From: Prince Albert, Sask.

Sport: Para-nordic skiing

Hudak took up the sport in 2011 and trains six days a week, with her eyes set on winning a medal in Sochi.

Sebastian Fortier

Age: 27

From: Quebec City, Que.

Sport: Para-nordic skiing

Fortier placed lower in the ranks in Vancouver, but spent the last four years training and won three gold medals in the 2013 Canada Winter Games.

Caroline Bisson; Twitter

Age: 39

From: Gatineau, Que.

Sport: Biathlon, Cross-country skiing

Bisson took part in the IPC para-Nordic World Cup in 2012, and has consistently placed in the top 10 in competitions.

John Leslie; Twitter

Age: 21

From: Winnipeg, Man.

Sport: Para-snowboarding

Leslie is hoping to finish on the podium in Sochi after winning his first medal, a bronze, in the IPC World Cup earlier this year. These will be his first Paralympic games.

Caleb Brousseau; Twitter

Age: 25

From: Terrace, B.C.

Sport: Para-alpine skier

While these are Brousseau’s first Paralympics, he has five top 10 finishes in the IPC World Cup. Brousseau transitioned to sit-skiing after a snowboarding injury in 2007.

Derek Whitson; Twitter

Age: 24

From: Chatham, Ont.

Sport: Sledge hockey

Whitson joined the national sledge hockey team in 2007. Since then, he’s helped Canada win two gold medals in the World Sledge Hockey Challenge, and an IPC World Cup in 2013.

Alexandra Starker; Twitter

Age: 20

From: Calgary, Alta.

Sport: Para-alpine skiing

Sochi will be Starker’s first Paralympics, but she’s already the Canadian slalom champion from 2011 and 2013. She’s also ranked as the top female para-alpine skier in Canada after finishing on the IPC world podium four times.

Erin Latimer; Twitter

Age: 17

From: Toronto, Ont.

Sport: Para-alpine skiing

Latimer may still be in her teens, but she’s a top contender for the podium in Sochi after she placed in the top 10 twice in her first IPC World Cup season in 2013.

Mac and BJ Marcoux; Twitter

Ages: Mac, 16, BJ, 19

From: Sault Ste Marie, Ont.

Sport: Para-alpine skiing

At only 15 years old, Mac won the IPC World Cup in 2013. His brother, BJ, left able-bodied skiing to guide his younger, visually-impaired sibling on the slopes. BJ says his dream is for his brother to win a Paralympic medal.

Margarita Gorbounova; Twitter

Age: 29

From: Ottawa, Ont.

Sport: Biathlon, Skiing

Gorbounva took part in the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games but didn’t finish on the podium. This year, she’s hoping for a medal after winning bronze in the 2012-2013 IPC World Cup season.

Michelle Salt; Twitter

Age: 29

From: Calgary, Alta.

Sport: Para-snowboarding

Salt lost her leg to a motorcycle accident in June 2011 and began competing just five weeks later. She is the newest addition to the national para-snowboarding team.