Okanagan Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Prior to the equestrian accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down, Vernon’s Sonja Gaudet played a wide variety of sports, from basketball and volleyball to swimming, tennis and skiing.

Curling doesn’t appear because Gaudet never pushed or swept a rock in her life.

Rather than focus on limitations, Gaudet – at age 31 and with support from her husband, two young kids aged six and three at the time of her accident, plus her community – persevered and became Canada’s most decorated Paralympic curler, winning three Paralympic gold medals and three world wheelchair curling championships.

Gaudet was announced on Wednesday, May 27, as one of the 11 members in the Class of 2020-21 to be inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

“This whole journey has taken on a life of its own,” said Gaudet. “I’ve been supported by so many people. I’m grateful to my family, my coaches and my teammates. Curling is such a brilliant team sport with great team dynamics. Those teammates became friends. It’s been an experience I’ll never forget.”

Six athletes and five builders were chosen this year to signify and celebrate Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame’s 65th anniversary year. Joining Gaudet as Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020/21 Inductees are:

* John “Jackie” Barrett – Athlete, Powerlifting and Special Olympian;

* Diane Jones Konihowski – Athlete, Athletics

* Lorie Kane – Athlete, Golf;

* Eric Lamaze and Hickstead – Team, Equestrian – Show Jumping;

* Steve Nash – Athlete, Basketball;

* Duncan Campbell – Builder, Wheelchair Rugby:

* Sheldon Kennedy – Builder, Ice Hockey;

* Judy Kent – Builder, Sport Administration;

* Willie O’Ree – Builder, Ice Hockey;

* Ross Powless – Builder, Lacrosse.

“We’ve never been more proud of our sports history, our sports champions, and their community spirit, and we are formally recognizing these athletes and builders for living and sharing sports values – Canada’s shared values; respect, equality, fairness and openness,” said Cheryl Bernard, Olympic curler and president and CEO of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Said Gaudet, on being a member of this class: “It’s such a diverse class that is being recognized and I think that’s great. Congratulations to them all. I’m honoured to be going into the Hall of Fame with them.”

Determined to improve accessibility for other people with physical disabilities in her community, Gaudet was introduced to wheelchair curling by chance when the Vernon Curling Club asked her for advice regarding renovating a wheelchair accessible washroom.

The club was preparing to host a beginner’s wheelchair curling clinic, and Gaudet’s interest was piqued. She ended up participating, and at the age of 37 discovered a passion and natural affinity for the sport, thanks to the persuasion of two longtime club members.

“Janice Mori and Sharon Morrison were determined to get me out on the ice throwing rocks,” laughed Gaudet. “I’m glad they were persistent and I’m grateful they persevered from that moment.”

Gaudet won Paralympic gold in Turin, Italy, in 2006, Vancouver in 2010 and in 2014 in Sochi, Russia, where she was honoured to be Canada’s flag bearer for the opening ceremonies. She was also part of a Canada Post postage stamp series, Women in Winter Sports, released prior to the 2018 Olympics and Paralympics in Korea.

She won world wheelchair gold in 2009, 2011 and 2013.

Gaudet is also a member of the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame, B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame and Mission Hill (Vernon) School Hall of Fame.

“I feel like now I can just pause and reflect on everything,” said Gaudet, when asked where being inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame ranks on her list of accomplishments. “They all hold so many special, different memories.”

Gaudet serves as an inspirational speaker in schools and working as an accessibility specialist with the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, promoting “Access for All” initiatives across the tourism industry in B.C. She is also an alumni ambassador with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and a peer support specialist with Spinal Cord Injury BC, which raises funds and awareness to improve accessible environments, recreation and experiences for everyone, regardless of their abilities.

The Canadian Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place sometime in 2021.

READ MORE: Gaudet honoured with postage stamp

READ MORE: Vernon wheelchair curler called to BC Hall



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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