Will Canada lose its gold medal champion?

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Curling continued to kick ass this week with the announcement of yet another official 2010 Olympic coin – make that Paralympic coin – dedicated to the sport; the second of three released since February.

This time, its Paralympic wheelchair curling that gets the honour, officially released on Tuesday at a news conference featuring Chris Daw, the skip of Canada’s Paralympic gold medal champion team (photo). See a TV report here, a print report here and the news release here.

Daw is a fiercely patriotic and powerful fellow adorned with Canuck tattoos who makes regular speaking engagements across Ontario. He offers much as a multi-sport Paralympic and world championship athlete who has competed in wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby aka Murderball, wheelchair athletics and sledge hockey. He’s been caught on camera doing wheelchair motocross, bungee jumping off a cliff, parasailing and even scuba diving.

He was also instrumental in hooking the Canadian Curling Association up with the Canadian Paralympic Foundation and the Toronto Stock Exchange earlier this year, in a landmark deal which will see the CCA set up a new Office of Inclusionary Services – catering specifically to disabled curlers in categories including wheelchair and blind – via a tidy TSX donation of $400,000.

It’s no surprise then to hear rumours, now circulating, that he is being wooed by rival nations – more than one, we hear – who want him to uproot from Canada and set up shop overseas.

What is stunning, and hard to believe, are the rumours that he is seriously considering the offers.

Daw knows his stuff, and on the curling ice, he can make shots no other wheelchair curler can. We know this, personally, as we have seen him lead his squads to exhibition game victories over able-bodied teams skipped by Glenn Howard and Mike Harris among others.

Daw spoke to The Curling Showa year ago, but there were no hints about any post-Turin troubles, just a nonchalant “we’re looking forward to 2010.”

What has changed in a year, to make Daw consider leaving Canada, and lend his considerable expertise to a rival country in advance of the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver?

The very question makes it easy to disbelieve the rumours, but in reality the exportation of Chris Daw would simply follow the able-bodied script, which has seen a multitude of Canadian curlers oversee national team coaching and/or development programs on four continents. So while Canadians would grow nervous, the rest of the curling world would improve their growth and skill set in what is the fastest-growing disabled sport on the planet.

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