in SWEEP! Magazine -
Armstrong cleared to
curl for Canada
Team Canada’s chances
of repeating Paralympic gold in Vancouver in 2010 received a huge boost
when BC Brier competitor Jim Armstrong was cleared to play by the WCF.
Armstrong had already met Canadian eligibility standards. Last March, he
skipped BC to the national championship, and had been working as an
on-ice consultant with Team Canada.
I spoke to him on his return from the Kinross International in Scotland,
where he beat fellow squad member Darryl Neighbour in the all-Canada
final by millimetres on a tie-break draw to the four-foot.
“Though my reliance on my wheelchair is increasing,” he said. “I think
it was the opportunity to discuss my situation in person with the WCF
assessor, have a real appraisal of my degree of disability, rather than
any particular change in my mobility, that led to my being cleared to
play in WCF events.”
“Getting back to the ice has done wonders for me personally. And my
family,” he added. “I’m out of the house and on the ice most days, and
throwing more rocks than I have ever done. The squad has some excellent
curlers who are improving all the time and I must earn my place.”
Team Canada has struggled since Torino, especially at skip, and
Armstrong brings a wealth of experience that other international sides
will find hard to match. The CCA’s Gerry Peckham is delighted that his
old friend and teammate will be available. “Skipping is about strategy,
ice reading and team management, as well as shot execution,” he said.
“These take years to learn and adding someone with Jim’s experience is
With eight players under serious consideration for Team Canada 2009,
expect at least one change when the team for next February’s World’s in
Vancouver is announced in December.
Canada will field two teams at the Cathy Kerr Memorial Bonspiel in
Ottawa, November 28-30, where they will face Team USA, who beat them for
bronze at the 2008 World. They'll skip the US Open December 5-7, but
face the touring Scots the following week in Richmond BC, December 9-13.
Programs have begun at the Callie in Regina, St. John's in Newfoundland
and in Lennoxville near Sherbrooke, Quebec. Newfoundland/Labrador and
Saskatchewan are hoping to bring to eight the number of provinces who
will compete for the national title in Nova Scotia next March.
The Kinross Spiel used the new delivery zone with stones placed within
18 inches of the centre line, an addition of approximately 6 inches of
width either side of centre. This should bring the point at which stones
cross the near hogline more in line with stones thrown from a hack.
How will it play in practice? Will throws be accurate enough without
sweeping, to take advantage of these extra inches? The Canadian camp
definitely thinks so, and is working on strategies that incorporate what
they expect to be a significant expansion of available shots.
Jim Armstrong’s experience is likely to prove invaluable to Team
Canada’s ability to take advantage of the new rule, and that may have
been in repeat world champion Norway’s coach Thoralf Hognestad’s mind
when he expressed displeasure at the rule change.
“I only heard about it in June,” he complained. “If you want wider
angles, you should throw from further back. The WCF should have asked
the wheelchair curlers before making the change. Norway does not like
the new rule at all.”
For a long time, it has been presumed that wheelchair curling was a game
of misses, an analysis borne out by the statistics, and the
comparatively high number of points scored per end. If, however, it
proves possible to throw 60 or 65% or more, then the implementation of
rules that make more shots possible will dramatically change the game if
skips are able to take advantage.
Canada’s competitive future looks bright.
Practice as you mean to play
You have to practice if you are going to improve your skills, but unless
you practice with a plan, you may be wasting your time. Here’s some tips
to keep in mind.
Never throw a stone without knowing what you want it to achieve -- its
speed, its rotation, its target. Practice builds muscle memory, and
that’s what you will rely on in game situations, so don’t corrupt the
memory databank with aimless throws.
Most people’s chairs move during delivery, especially on up-weight
shots. If your chair is braced when you compete, don’t practice from an
un-braced chair. If you do you’ll find yourself changing your position
and delivery to compensate for the movement, and if you throw
differently in practice, then practice won’t help. You’d be better off
in the gym.
Finally, if you want to become a competitive wheelchair curler and play
on a team with able-bodied curlers, do not allow your stones to be
swept. It’s tempting, but you’ll learn to compensate for sweeping that
won’t be there when it matters.
Eric Eales - Kelowna,