It took two years, but Vernon wheelchair curler Sonja Gaudet finally has her spot in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
Gaudet was elected to the Hall in 2020 but a ceremony was cancelled due to COVID that year, and again in 2021.
On Thursday, June 9, Gaudet and her fellow Class of 2020 athletes and builders joined the Class of 2021 at an induction gala in Vancouver.
Originally from North Vancouver, Gaudet played basketball and equestrian and thought curling was “boring,” but that would change.
She moved to Vernon in 1988 and, in 1997, she was seriously injured riding her horse, becoming paralyzed from the waist down.
With support from her family, the Vernon community, and others like Rick Hansen, Gaudet made a miraculous recovery. After just a month in the hospital, and two more rehabbing at Vancouver’s GF Strong Centre, she returned home.
Gaudet discovered wheelchair curling in 2003 when the Vernon Curling Club sought her advice on accessibility for a bathroom reno. Wheelchair curling was to be a new Paralympic sport in 2006 and Gaudet had no idea she’d end up one of the new athletes recruited for it.
With the support of longtime Vernon curlers Sharon Morrison and Jan Mori, Gaudet progressed rapidly, breaking into the national team program in 2005 and making her first international appearance for Canada at the 2006 Paralympics in Torino.
Over the next decade, Gaudet helped Canada win three straight Paralympic gold medals in 2006, 2010, and 2014 and three world championships in 2009, 2011, and 2013. The period from 2009 to 2014, when Canada was virtually unbeatable with a largely all-B.C.-based line-up, will likely never be surpassed in Canadian wheelchair curling history.
The highlight of Sonja’s career was her selection as Canada’s Opening Ceremonies flag bearer at the Sochi Paralympics in 2014. In 2018, she was featured on a Canada Post stamp.
Joining Gaudet in the Athlete category for the Class of 2020 were cyclist Alex Stieda, football player Brent Johnson, baseball pitcher Jeff Francis and NHL goalie Kirk McLean. Builder-Coach inductees included Bill Mitchell, Harry White and Valerie Johnson. The 1979-80 University of Victoria Vikings men’s basketball squad was inducted in the team category.
Athletes for the Class of 2021 included former Vancouver Canucks forward Gino Odjick, Paralympian Jason Delesalle, multi-sport star Gerry Gilmore, soccer player Dale Mitchell, and basketball guard Eli Pasquale.
The 1961-62 Vancouver Firefighters’ Men’s Soccer Team was enshrined in the Team category, and Canadian professional wrestling legend (Gentleman) Gene Kiniski was inducted as a pioneer.