Lohja (FIN) Worlds
Published in The Curling News - February 2015
Team Canada were about to announce an unchanged squad for the 2015 World
Wheelchair Curling Championships, which begin in Loja Finland on
February 7, skip Jim Armstrong was hospitalised, awaiting surgery
following a heart attack.
"Our concerns for Jim and his medical condition are certainly front and
centre of our thoughts," said teammate Sonja Gaudet, a sentiment for the
6-time Brier competitor that will be shared across the curling
Canada has taken five out of five gold medals since 2009 with Armstrong
as skip, they have failed to reach the podium at the last three Worlds
"Absolutely we are going to miss him, not only for his shooting skills
but as a team mate and a leader." says Coach Joe Rea. "This team however
is very prepared and capable and we are excited to have this opportunity
to put our planning to work in Finland."
sentiment was echoed by Gaudet, ever-present since 2006, saying she is
"confident that the team is much more prepared than we have been in the
Ideson appeared equally unfazed by the prospect of moving from alternate
to throwing lead rocks and skipping. "Our line up has changed
unexpectedly, but our team has been shuffling positions this season so
that we are prepared for any player to come in and out of play at any
"Fortunately, we've got an experienced team and we're mentally and
the broom for Ideson will be Ina Forrest, who moves from 2nd to throwing
4th stones. "It will be a new challenge for all of us and we are
determined to be prepared for the challenge," she said.
Manitoba's Dennis Thiessen continues at 3rd, Gaudet moves to 2nd and
rookie Marie Wright who won her "D card" funding at a selection camp at
the end of November is the alternate.
first came to the attention of the coaches when her Saskatchewan team
won the Canadian National title in 2012 and her
inclusion marks the first time a majority female team has competed at
the three year accumulation of qualification points for the 2018
Paralympics begins at this year, Canada's preparation has appeared
somewhat low key in contrast to Russia and Scotland, the other two
medallists at last year's Paralympics.
some scouting and development camps will occur this season, the 2018
Paralympics selection process will commence in earnest next year," said
program director Gerry Peckham.
coach Tony Zummack puts more emphasis on 2015 performance.
post-Paralympics year needs to be taken seriously. An early good finish
eases pressure later. If the level of consistency continues to improve
then (the qualifiers] may need upwards of 15 points. That would mean an
average finish of 5th at each of the three events and a good possibility
that any team without three chances to accumulate points will need need
a top 4 finish in the other two."
the top eight teams at the World's are guaranteed a place the following
year. The bottom two must compete in an open qualifying event for the
remaining places; and as Korea, Japan, Italy and Switzerland and others
have discovered, returning to the top 10 is no easy task.
the Sochi Paralympic medallists competed at major North American
tournaments this Fall. Russia won the newly named Canadian Open in
Richmond BC, beating Scotland in the final with Canada 3rd.
same two teams played the final of Ottawa's Cathy Kerr Memorial Spiel,
the world's largest wheelchair curling event by entries, with Canada
forced into the consolation event.
third leg of Russia and Scotland's tour was the US Open in Utica NY
(Canada did not compete) where Collinda Joseph's enterprising Ottawa
rink defeated Scotland for gold, with Russia taking bronze.
skip Aileen Neilson decided to take an additional (and maximum) further
two year sabbatical to help Scotland secure the necessary points for the
2018 Paralympics. When her five years are up in 2016 she must choose
between returning to her teaching job, or continuing to compete.
accident that the three Paralympic medallists are all fully funded
curlers. Sweden's Jalle Jungnell, the sport's most experienced
wheelchair curler, says his team all have full time jobs and that it is
becoming increasingly difficult to compensate for the ability of top
teams to commit all their time and energy to curling.
will however be great fun," he says, "and we have as always a great
spirit in the team, on and off the ice. You have to have fun to
long time 3rd, Glenn Ikonen, has retired, replaced by Ronny Persson, a
former Paralympic downhill medallist from Nagano and Salt Lake.
Jager, who brought his own cheering section to the Vancouver Worlds,
returns to skip Team Germany after political disputes over who was
actually running the sport led to his temporary departure. Germany's
subsequent relegation led to his re-instatement and successful return
via last November's Qualifying. Norway took full advantage of home ice
to claim the second qualifying slot.
Slovakia has prepared by staying close to home; winning an eight team
tournament spread over several weekends, playing Poland, Italy and five
domestic Czech teams.
Steven Emt (Andover CT) joins a USA team still awaiting their first
medal. Fans who watched TV coverage of the team's Paralympic performance
will hope skip Patrick McDonald muzzles the constant and often
contradictory on-ice kibbitzing from his teammates.
a playoff team the past three years with two bronze medals, have
pedigree but no current track record. Hosts Finland on the other hand
will hope home ice advantage will keep them out of next November's
Qualifying, from which they are unlikely to re-emerge.
will win? Probably a Sochi medallist, but perhaps this year for the
first time since 2008, Canada are not clear favourites. Despite Coach
Rea's endorsement of Armstrong's shooting, it is not exceptional. What
he brought was decades of ice reading and game management experience.
Even if Canada play well without him, other teams will find it easier to
believe they can win.
Eales has been writing about wheelchair curling since 2004, and
publishes the wheelchaircurling.com website.