in SWEEP! d-Mag
- Issue 4
- January 2010)
Championship Curling Coming Of Age
In a reassuring sign of
the health of competitive wheelchair curling, seven of the nine
provinces sending teams to the National Championships in Kelowna 15-21
March, are holding playdowns rather than selection camps to decide their
Chris Sobkowicz will again skip Manitoba after defeating Richard Dudek
in a best of three series. He has made just one change from 2009: George
Hornning comes in at 2nd, joining Dennis Thiessen and Arleen Ursel, with
Terry Lindell as alternate. They'll be hoping to improve on the bronze
medals won at the last two Nationals.
Nova Scotia came up with an imaginative workaround to the problem of
having just one female wanting to curl competitively this season.
There'll be a two team playdown, with Debbie Earle joining the team that
takes the best of five series. Michael Fitzgerald, Laughie Rutt and
Trendal Hubley-Bolivar. who all played as Team Nova Scotia in 2009, make
up one threesome; Richard Brown, Terry Cousineuau and Keith Williams the
Lack of females also limited the number of teams in BC's playdowns,
though BC have two women on Team Canada, and a third, Jackie Roy, who
has trained so closely with the national squad that she has decided to
stay in Vancouver to watch the Paralympics. Vancouver Island's Juan de
Fuca Centre will host a three team playdown at the end of January.
Ex-Team Canada members Gerry Austgarden and Gary Cormack will be
opponents, though neither are slated to skip.
Lower Mainlander Cormack will play 3rd for local teammates Richard Green
at skip and Vince Miele, with the Island's Corrine Jensen at lead.
Kelowna's Austgarden, who skipped an all-Okanagan team at the 2009
playdowns, will play second for Prince George's Whitney Warren, one of
just two players to have appeared in every National Championship.
(Ontario's Frank Cannarella is the other.) Whitney is joined by local
teammate Frank LaBounty, with whom he has won gold at the past three
Nationals. Their lead is Quesnel rookie Allison Duddy.
Kelowna's Cyril Kinakin skips the third BC team, with local Ron
Vaselenak, Jim Miller from the Island, and Vancouver's Samantha Siu.
With PEI deciding to wait another year before attending the Nationals,
two BC teams, the Provincial Champion and a host team, will play in
Two teams from Calgary and two from Edmonton will contest the Alberta
Provincial Championship at the Jasper CC in Edmonton, February 5-7.
Calgary's Jack Smart will hope to defend his title, though he will be
without last year's third Bruno Yizek, who'll be warming the bench in
Vancouver. Martin Purvis steps in at 2nd, with Anne Hibberd moving up to
3rd and Bridget Wilson at lead.
Last year the Ontario Curling Association made the deeply unpopular
decision to limit wheelchair playdown participation to just one team
from each region. This eliminated a second team from the Ottawa area and
failed to reward the efforts of Ottawa wheelchair curlers to expand
participation beyond a single team.
This year the OCA agreed to allow participation up to the total team
limit allowed regular curlers; so five teams will compete at the
Collingwood CC from February 17-20. Bradford's 2009 Provincial Champion
Ken Gregory will face Toronto's Chris Rees, Ottawa's Bruce Cameron and
Richard Fraser, and Ilderton's Lance Claus, skipping a rookie squad
coached by Ernie Comerford, who jump-started wheelchair curling in
The Kenora Curling Club hosts its first Northern Ontario Championship
February 5 -7 with hometown current champions Team Ficek hoping to see
off the challenge from Thunder Bay's Carl Levesque and Richard Dawid.
Wayne Ficek skips an unchanged team of Mark Wherrett, Chester Draper,
Cindy Hoffstrom and Denise Miault.
Wheelchair curling in Quebec has been centred at the Lennoxville CC, but
they received a late challenge from the Victoria CC in Quebec City and
will host a playdown February 20-21. Lennoxville will welcome back their
skip, Ben Lessard, who was seriously injured over the summer in a
water-skiing accident. He will be joined by Denis Grenier and Carl
Marquis. Competition for the two female slots will be decided at a
try-out session between Johanne Daly, Johanne Poulin and Nicole
Team Saskatchewan was chosen in December with just one change from the
side who had a very creditable 4-5 record in 2009 at their first
national championship. Newcomer Terry Hart joins Del Huber (Regina), Gil
Dash (Wolseley), Marie Wright (Moose Jaw) and Darwin Bender (Regina).
The team will again be coached by Moose Jaw's Lorraine Arguin.
Newfoundland/Labrador will announce their team selections closer to the
The other major calendar event is the Ontario Parasport Winter Games at
the Royal Kingston Winter Club, January 22-24. Six teams are competing;
Toronto's Rees, Ottawa's Cameron, Bradford's Gregory, Kenora's Ficek and
Levesque and Dawid from the Fort William CC in Thunder Bay.
Italy continued the 'something for everyone' theme of this season's
international bonspiels, winning the 2010 Identa Cup in Schwenningen,
home of Jens Jäger's Team Hunters, aka Team Germany. A final warm-up
spiel, provisionally scheduled for Glasgow or Perth at the end of
January, will include Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and
Canada have a heavy schedule of training camps but no more competitions
before Vancouver. Up to Christmas only Great Britain had traveled more.
Though Team Canada would have been open to hosting teams wishing to
visit, the feeling in the camp was that after the first part of February
there was nothing to be gained by playing opponents they would be
meeting in a month's time.
Though wheelchair curling claims only a small part of the attention of
the delegates to the semi-annual World Curling Federation meetings, big
issues were at stake at Aberdeen last December. WCF vice-President Kate
Caithness presented a paper proposing eligibility changes. She also
addressed the present absence of an appeal procedure of an assessor's
determination of player eligibility, either for or against.
But the meeting failed to lift the legally dubious ban on power
wheelchairs in WCF competition. If evidence existed that power chairs
afforded a competitive advantage, or damaged the ice surface, the WCF
should (and would) have offered it. Without it the ban appears
unwarranted discrimination towards a whole class of otherwise eligible
Those familiar with issues of discrimination know that one should never
underestimate the prevalence of blind prejudice. A senior WCF official
that I spoke to directly (not Caithness) suggested that power wheelchair
users should just use manual chairs instead - presumably while eating
WCF officials have declined to respond to requests for the rationale
behind their support for the ban, beyond saying that a decision will be
made at the meeting next April in Cortina.
It may be an uphill battle to persuade delegates to that meeting to go
against the recommendation of the WCF executive. Most will be unfamiliar
with wheelchair curling and probably will not have given much thought to
the notion that people with disabilities so significant they require use
of powered wheelchairs, also deserve an opportunity to compete.
But it is an effort very much worth making, and I urge you to seek out
and lobby your delegates, and raise the issue with your member
associations. This ban can and should be lifted
Eric Eales - Kelowna,