in SWEEP! d-Mag
Canada prepares for 2010
Coverage of wheelchair
curling in Canada last season was dominated by the inclusion, declared
ineligibility. and subsequent re-instatement of ex-Brier stalwart Jim
Armstrong into the Team Canada training squad. There was never any real
doubt that were he cleared to play in WCF sanctioned events, he would
skip the team, and last February Canada won their first World
Championship in the inaugural event at the arena that will host the
Olympics and Paralympics in Vancouver next March.
Canada were off to a shaky start at the Worlds, losing early to Italy,
China and the USA and also to nemesis Norway in the final round robin
draw. They then regrouped to power past USA (4th), Germany (bronze) and
Sweden (silver) in the page play-offs. You can read full accounts of the
Worlds at http://fwd4.me/1G2 and follow rock by rock accounts of each of
Canada's games in the February archives at
Connoisseurs of how cruel curling can be should watch the video of the
final two stones of the bronze medal game between USA and Germany at
The other big story of last season was how dedicated individuals in
Lennoxville QE, and Kenora and Thunder Bay ON and Regina SK and across
the country were instrumental in getting provincial programs to the
point where the 2009 National Championships in Halifax NS fielded nine
provincial teams, up from seven in 2008 and four in 2007. BC won for the
third successive year, with Jim Armstrong skipping his second
championship team. You can recap the championship as well as live
bogging coverage of selected games in the
March blog archive.
This season began with an eight person Team Canada training squad, With
the coaching staff committed to two females, BC’s Jackie Roy was added
as cover for Ina or Sonja. British Columbia continued to dominate the
final team as Manitoba’s Chris Sobkowicz and BC’s Gerry Austgarden were
cut. Skip Armstrong, 3rd Darryl Neighbour, 2nd Ina Forrest and lead
Sonja Gaudet are all from BC, as is coach Joe Rea, Alberta's Bruno Yizek
will be the alternate.
Sonja is the only holdover from the Torino Paralympic gold medal team.
Chris Daw left the squad and is now manager of the Vancouver Curling
Club that will take over the Olympic facility in 2011. Karen Blatchford
retired, and Gary Cormack failed to make the cut last season.
Most coaches at the Worlds agreed that Jim Armstrong's 50 years of
curling experience was instrumental in Canada's success. Canada were
occasionally outplayed, most comprehensively by China, but rarely out
skipped. Over the twelve games there was never an occasion where there
was no path into the house for Canada's last rock. But before too many
pre--hatched chickens are counted, it is also true that Canada without
Armstrong's skipping ability loses much of their advantage.
What could go wrong? Well, Jim discovered that pushing a body his weight
in a wheelchair stresses the shoulders worn down by years of sweeping.
He experienced such severe pain on his non-throwing arm that he
underwent rotator cuff surgery in August (http://fwd4.me/1GD). A serious
car crash and a family bereavement has meant that he had barely visited
the ice before leaving with the team for Norway and Scotland. Against
speculation that he would ease back onto the ice, he played all eleven
games on the tour, with Canada (4-2) taking second place in Norway, and
then winning the 2nd Annual Kinross International with a 4-1 record.
Halden Curling Club, the hosts for the Norwegian Open had their facility
closed by fire marshals just before the event was to start, and though
Dordie Nordby can to the rescue by offering the teams ice, it meant a
two hour each way bus ride from the hotel to Oslo.
"Very frustrating for everyone," was Armstrong's response. "And we had a
dubious time keeping call in each of our two losses." Both his and
Canada's luck seemed to have returned in Scotland where they drew the
short pool, and advanced to the play-off with a 2-1 record where Great
Britain, 2-2 and runaway winners in Norway, did not.
There were pre-season coaching changes on two teams expected to be
podium challengers in Vancouver. Thoralf Hognestad, who led Norway to
back-to-back World Championships after Torino had to give up the job
because of work commitments. His place was taken by Per Christensen,
previously coach of his Danish national side. While most of the national
teams have already selected their players for 2010, Norway will not
announce its team until January.
The other coaching change sees the return of the highly experienced
former Swedish World Champion Tomas Nordin, who takes over the 2009
Worlds silver medalists, Skip Jalle Jungnell, is one of the most
experienced wheelchair curlers in Europe, and the addition of a world
class player as coach will make Sweden even more dangerous in 2010.
The Paralympics is attracting international teams to Canada for domestic
competitions. Scotland and USA will be competing at the Cathy Kerr
Memorial Bonspiel in Ottawa November 27-29. Regrettably the Czech Open
is at the same time and Canada have decided to play in Prague that
weekend. Japan will play an exhibition match against Canada November
23rd at the Vancouver Curling Club, and Korea and Canada are two of the
teams that will be competing at the Richmond BC Invitational November
Eric Eales - Kelowna,