Monkton’s Corbyn Smith is all systems go in his attempt at winning the gold medal in sledge hockey for Canada’s Paralympic team in PyeongChang, South Korea from March 9-17. Prior to his departure Feb. 28 from his proud village – most of which is decorated in red and white (a few months early for Canada Day!) – Smith, 19, said he’s got one goal in mind and that’s bringing home the gold medal. Judging by the outstanding community support, there’s no way Smith won’t succeed! Good luck, Corbyn!
ANDY BADER/MITCHELL ADVOCATE
It’s not exactly a “lucky loonie”, but the indent of his wallet on his custom-made sled is close.
Every time Corbyn Smith gets himself settled in his sled before playing sledge hockey (officially known as para hockey) for Team Canada at the upcoming XII Paralympic Winter Games in South Korea, he’ll see (and sit on) that indent.
He’ll be just as happy with the result as what occurred 16 years ago when a dollar coin was secretly buried at center ice of the hockey arena during the Salt Lake City Olympics and the Canadian men’s hockey team rallied to win the gold medal.
That’s why he’s in South Korea – to win gold.
The 19-year-old oldest son of Luke and Christine Smith, of Monkton, is already in South Korea preparing for the Paralympics, but he chuckles at the wallet indent during an interview last week before he left. He said a lack of communication resulted in him just showing up in his jeans to be fitted for his sled, but he was supposed to wear the bottom half of his hockey equipment.
When his custom-made sled returned, the indent of his wallet – which was in his back pocket – was visible.
It was only a couple of weeks ago that he was officially named to the team, one of 17 players to represent Canada in the eight-team, nine-day tournament, the smallest (5’4”, 129 lbs.) and the second youngest (James Dunn is 17).
“I felt pretty confident I’d make the team but at the same time how can you not worry?,” he said about the training camp.
“It was a pretty stressful camp. I put a lot of work went into it…it was just a constant worry,” he added. “It was nice to get it off my chest and after that camp, go home and relax without that worry. It was a relief, I guess you could say.”
Smith was home in Monkton for only a handful of days after being in Toronto training team since before Christmas.
When he got home, the community support was obvious as the Monkton Lions wrapped the hydro poles heading into the village with red and white, and Canadian flags hung from every pole. Small white corrugated plastic signs with Corbyn’s number 9 and a small Canadian flag were made, too, and can be seen throughout the community.
“The support has been amazing,” he said. “When I was coming home from Toronto after being away in training…..it’s pretty overwhelming. ‘Holy cow,’ I thought, ‘people do care.’”
Smith was very young when he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, neuroblastoma, that affects the nerves in his abdomen and spine, leaving him with little feeling and next to no muscle in his right leg. He walks with a limp but generally is no worse for wear.
Since he couldn’t play ice hockey, he turned to sledge hockey when he was just five years old and has shown constant improvement over the years. Last year, he won two gold medals, the 2017 IPC World Para Ice Hockey championship – defeating their fiercest rival the United States 4-1 in the gold medal game – and at the International Para Hockey Tournament in Italy. He has also won silver at the 2016 World Sledge Hockey Challenge in PEI.
But the Paralympics are the ultimate event, much like the Olympics that just completed that saw Canada finish third overall on the medal podium with 29.
But has it sunk in?
“Last night I was talking to my dad and for the first time I said I was going to the Olympics,” he reflected. “I kind of had to stop and think, ‘what? Wow, it’s actually happening.’”
Ranked #1 going into the tournament thanks to their world championship last year, Canada will play Sweden, Italy and Norway in their round robin games, their sights on a semi-final March 14 and a berth in the gold medal game on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the village,” Smith said, keen to soak in the entire Olympic experience. “A lot of the guys that have been the Paralympics before said the village is really cool.
“I really want to see the skiing, too, I think that will be cool,” he said, noting that there will be some time to watch other sports.
“I’m really looking forward to that but at the end of the day I’m there to win a gold medal.”
Besides his parents, five other family members will attend, include grandparents Tom and Liz Goodyer, grandmother Gayle Dewar, and aunt and uncle Doug and Kelli Kirkham. That entourage from Monkton doesn’t leave for South Korea until March 7.
Corbyn admits he doesn’t have many details of their trip, or what’s in store.
“Hockey Canada has done a good job of keeping them in the loop so I don’t have to. It takes a lot of weight off my back,” he said.
“It’s nice that they’re there but I’m kind of focused on winning.”