in SWEEP! Magazine - February 2008)
A six month selection process produced just one change
from last year’s Team Canada. Darryl Neighbour replaced Chris Daw to
make it an all-BC team at February’s 2008 World Championships in Sursee,
not available at press time)
It’s ironic that had the CCA not mandated a coach
selected national team, this same group, Gerry Austgarden, Gary Cormack,
Sonja Gaudet, Ina Forrest and Neighbour would probably have represented
BC at last year’s Nationals and won their way to a 2008 maple leaf
The eight remaining National Talent Pool (NTP) curlers
are free to compete in the 2008 Nationals, March 22-30th in Winnipeg.
Northern Ontario, Nova Scotia and an Atlantic Canada team will join
Alberta and current champions BC at this year's event. Team Canada's
continued absence from the Nationals suggests a desire on the part of
the CCA to avoid embarrassment were they not to win.
Chris Daw's unceremonious exit from the international
stage came in a letter requesting “temporary leave of absence” from the
NTP, citing pressure of work and family responsibilities. The news,
broken on wheelchaircurling.com several days before an official CCA
announcement, provoked faint praise for someone so instrumental in
establishing the sport, and the only person to have skipped Team Canada.
Team Leader Wendy Morgan said: "Chris Daw has been an
active competitor on the wheelchair curling scene since its
inauguration, He is a true pioneer of this sport in Canada." She added
that the Discover Curling Program "is fortunate to have Chris’s passion
and energy directed toward grassroots recruitment of wheelchair curling
Joe Rea's only public comment was to stress in an
interview with the Vancouver Sun: "There isn't an ego on the (2008) team
and from a coaching perspective, that's a huge thing for me."
Chris, a carded athlete, seems to have worn out his
welcome, and may have realized that he wasn't going to make the cut
before requesting that his name be removed from consideration just prior
to the 2008 team announcement. The CCA’s Gerry Peckham stressed Chris
had jumped rather than been pushed. He also said that the selection
process of skills performance, coach assessment and peer review had each
created an identical rating of the NTP members. As Daw's intensity was
known to rankle many of his peers, it is fair to extrapolate from what
Peckham said that Chris didn’t make the top five, a requirement for team
While Daw may attempt a comeback, a more likely addition
to the Canadian squad continues to be Jim Armstrong. Speculation that he
will require a wheelchair for his daily mobility in time to be eligible
for the 2010 Paralympics has been encouraged in his own press
as 2010 host, is under huge pressure and is allocating unprecedented
resources to win gold. But all the top teams are improving their shot
making. Thoralf Hognestad, coach of 2007 World Champions Norway, feels
that a team curling at the level of the 2006 Torino Paralympics would
have no chance in 2008, let alone 2010. Additionally, the top teams have
recognised that the format of wheelchair curling, lacking sweeping,
precludes shooting percentages consistently higher that 60-65%. They are
therefore simplifying their game plans, and putting rocks into the house
to take advantage of their opponent's inevitable misses.
The skills of regular curling that apply equally in
wheelchair curling are calling appropriate shots and reading the ice.
This may explain the CCA's wooing of Armstrong, a long time skip and
6-time Brier competitor, even though he is currently ineligible, and not
in the top 5 in shot execution. Having an Armstrong, or a similarly
knee-wrecked Pal Trulsen, call
the game would be a huge advantage over teams skipped by players limited
in experience to the six years or so of this sport's existence.
Don’t take a shot unless the rock is positioned exactly
where you want it. Wheelchair users may have difficulty precisely
positioning their own rocks, a problem compounded if the “bracing”
procedure to keep their chair steady through delivery, has already
The temptation is not to cause a fuss; to either throw
from an incorrect position, or try to compensate during delivery. Either
way means a poor shot, and if you know a shot will be poor before you
take it, save your energy.
Make a note of exactly where you need the rock to be in
relation to (say) your front wheel. Note the orientation of the handle
that works for you, and insist that is always the same. That’s the only
way to develop a consistent delivery and improve your game.
An Ontario club
preparing a renovation grant request asked what I thought was the most
persuasive argument for encouraging wheelchair access. I replied,
curling clubs are an important social and recreational resource in
Canadian culture that should be open to everyone, not just those who
don’t use wheelchairs.
Let me know about your
local efforts to encourage wheelchair participation.
Eric Eales - Kelowna,January