year for training
Published in The curling News - December 2012
season’s World Wheelchair Curling Championships in Chuncheon Korea saw
2014 Paralympic hosts Russia win gold by beating the home side 9-1,
their first podium finish. Bronze medallists China (average age 23) also
made the podium for the first time, while rookies Slovakia were 4th.
turnover of top teams speaks both to the competitiveness of
international wheelchair curling, and the low barriers to entry for
teams willing to devote the practice required to learn basic skills.
wheelchair curling is a far simpler game to master than those coaches
steeped in the able-bodied game care to admit.
skip Hak Sung Kim, who won the Sportsmanship Award, attributed his
team’s loss in the final to players tightening up. His refreshing
analysis of the defeat: "Our players need to learn how to enjoy
were the only team of the six who had won medals the previous three
years, to achieve a winning record. Sweden and Scotland matched Canada's
3-6 performance, Norway fell to 2-7 and were demoted to this November’s
qualifying round, and Germany did not qualify.
had ready-made excuses for their collapse. Skip Jim Armstrong was sent
home before play began for failing a drug test taken two months earlier.
His vice, Darryl Neighbour, struggled with health issues that limited
his effectiveness and playing time.
team, not even Team Howard could have overcome losing its back end
immediately before a world level competition," suggested program
director Gerry Peckham, with some justification.
had travelled with six athletes, suggesting prior concerns. The
miscalculation of Armstrong's eligibility and Neighbour's health,
however, left Sonja Gaudet and Ina Forrest playing with two rookies,
Jack Smart and Anne Hibberd, in a lineup without a recognised skip.
Chuncheon showed just how dependent Canada are on Jim Armstrong's
decades of curling experience in a wheelchair sport barely 10 years old.
not only brings tactical understanding and ability to read the ice,"
said Peckham, " he brings out the best in his team mates. In 2011 he
skipped the team to an 11-0 record at a level of performance previously
him, Team Canada coach Joe Rea’s insistence that “there isn’t a coach
that wouldn’t want these guys on their team,” while dutifully
supportive, is less believable than Canadians may wish to admit.
now rejoined the team having had his original 18 month ban for traces of
Tamoxifen, reduced on appeal to a “more proportionate” 6 months.
the circumstances, I think it's as close to vindication as I can get,"
he told the Calgary Herald.
leads Sonja and Ina in an eight member selection squad that sees the
return of Torino gold medallist Gerry Austgarden, and four international
rookies: Dennis Thiessen (MB), Benoit Lessard (QC), and Mark Ideson and
Mike Munro (ON).
wholly BC based on-ice line-up post Torino, Team Canada is now more
national: healthy for the sport's profile, though presenting logistical
problems that the Brier and Scotties team based selection avoids.
in the process of identifying coaches from across Canada who can oversee
the practice and play of Team Canada members outside of camps, and
identify new talent," says Peckham. That may also open avenues to
players not presently known to the national staff. Ideson and Munro's
national careers began with enthusiastic lobbying by their London ON
coach Ernie Comerford.
has devoted most of its budget this year to training, with just two
events scheduled before the 2013 Worlds in Sochi, Russia: the Richmond
BC International and Ottawa’s Cathy Kerr, the world’s biggest wheelchair
curling event by entries.
Armstrong, playing with Thiessen, Munro and Gaudet, won in Richmond in
early November. They avenged their only round robin defeat by beating
Patrick McDonald's USA 9-3 in the final. Canada II (Austgarden, Ideson,
Lessard and Forrest) went 1-4. Line-ups in Ottawa at the end of November
will be a better guide to the players' 2013 prospects.
Championships are played in the three years between Paralympics.
Participants earn points towards Paralympic qualification. The top eight
finishers in the preceding Worlds earn an automatic place the following
year. The bottom two teams must compete against other WCF affiliated
countries in a November Qualifying Tournament for the final two places.
year Norway and Italy were the newly demoted teams in a field of eleven
that included three other Vancouver 2010 competitors: Switzerland,
Germany and Japan.
and hosts Finland, perhaps not coincidentally finalists at the Kinross
International just 10 days earlier, claimed the qualification slots.
Finland will be appearing in their first ever World Championship, while
the Norwegians were World Champions in 2007 and 2008.
Norwegian skip Rune Lorentsen said: “It feels fantastic to have won.
Many games at the 2012 Worlds were very close, so we felt we were very
unlucky in Korea. But I don’t want to come down to the Qualification
event again because it was very tough – there were some very good teams
here. It’s not easy for anyone who goes down to get back up again.”
Eales has been writing about wheelchair curling since 2004, and
publishes the wheelchaircurling.com website.