January 30, 2006
Daw epitomizes perseverance
KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

When Chris Daw was born, his parents were told he only had six weeks to live.

Now the Londoner, who will turn 37 in two days, is heading to his fourth Paralympic Games. At one point in his career, Daw was known as the fastest wheelchair athlete in the world.

A relative newcomer to wheelchair curling, Daw not only made Canada's Paralympic team, he will be the skip at the Turin Games (March 10-19).

Daw, who has been in a wheelchair all of his life, said he had signs of trauma when he was born, but doctors didn't know exactly what was wrong.

It wasn't until many years later that a geneticist determined that he had suffered a stroke while in the womb.

"(My parents) were told I wasn't going to amount to much," Daw said during a training break recently. "My parents weren't going to accept it. I was blessed with a father and siblings who didn't treat me like I had a disability."

It was Daw's father Ivan who got his son involved in athletics.

His first sport was basketball and the naturally athletic youngster was also encouraged to try track and field.

Daw thrived on the track and by 1986, he was considered "the fastest wheelchair athlete on the planet."

He set six world records that year and two years later at the Paralympics, Daw won a bronze medal in the 200 metres and was fourth in the marathon.

He has also competed internationally in wheelchair rugby and basketball.

Daw represented Canada at the 1984 Paralympics in Stoke, England, in athletics and the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney in rugby. He's also participated in more than 60 world championships in various events.

His parents have never seen him compete internationally, although Daw said that has always been his dream.

"That would be the biggest highlight of my life," Daw said.

But it's unlikely to happen now as his father is unable to travel by air.

Daw, a father of three (his children have never seen him compete either), took up curling in 2000 and it has become his passion. "I've embraced curling; it's a lifelong sport."

With a scant six months of curling on his resume, Daw won a silver medal at the world championship in Switzerland.

Daw trains six days a week, four to five hours each day in the sport, which is being contested at the Paralympics for the first time in Turin.

Two other Londoners are part of the Canadian curling team.

Trevor Kerr is the equipment manager and Karen Blachford has been training as the lead.

Sonja Gaudet of Vernon, B.C., is also vying for that spot. A decision about who will be the lead in Turin will not likely be made until after the national championship in February, Daw said.

The other two members of the Canadian team are Gary Cormack of Surrey, B.C., and Gerald Austgarden of Westbank, B.C. The team trains in both Ontario and B.C.

Daw said the Canadians play a smart game and have a good chance of winning a medal, including gold.

"We're not weak at any position."

The team is ranked fourth in the world heading to Turin.

Daw, who is running for the International Paralympic Committee's athletes' council, is entertaining the idea of continuing his athletic career until 2010, when the Paralympics will be in Vancouver.

"I don't know how long I'll go on. It's nice to think I have one more Games in me."