in SWEEP! d-Mag
- Issue 7
- March 2010)
A BC triple
Canada won their gold
medal, Korea reawakened to the form that saw them runners-up at the 2008
Worlds, Sweden persevered past a miserable start and a tie-break day
suspension of their last rock thrower, and USA did not quite
go-all-the-way. The Richmond BC press hailed the Darryl and Jim show,
while the Okanagan BC press celebrated Ina and Sonja, and we all see
what we want to see.
Canada coach Joe Rea said before the Games that Jim Armstrong's major
contribution would be throwing 4th stones. And so it was, if not quite
in the way he anticipated.
Playing Korea In the final, Canada saw an 8-1 lead shrink to 8-6 with
Korea lying two with one Canadian rock to play. It was a last rock
takeout attempt as consequential as Great Britain's Frank Duffy faced
four years ago in Torino. Jim didn't miss and Canada's coaches will feel
the 8-7 win vindicates their decision to parachute him into the team.
There was a noticeable improvement overall at lead, possibly helped by
more teams asking their leads to come into the house, inviting hits. All
but one lead shot over 60% with half closer to 70%. Ina Forest was the
only 2nd over 60% and the Italian 3rd Egidio Marchese was way out on his
own at 66%.
The best skips shot in the mid 50s. For all the celebration of the many
excellent shots made, it remains stubbornly difficult to break out of
the 50% range as a back end player. There are shot by shot analyses and
full statistics available on the Vanoc website.
Going forward, I hope Jim gets his coaching credentials and becomes a
full-time wheelchair curling ambassador/national coach with a mandate to
kick start provincial programs, most of which have stalled at a minimal
number of participants.
Korea, despite a small athlete pool, and reportedly training on ice
frozen in a disused swimming pool, brought a new delivery style to the
ice that left their shoulders square after delivery, rather than before.
I suspect we are still at the early stages of delivery motion analysis.
Canada's top secret program has Ina Forrest creasing her body and then
exploding out of her chair. It looks ugly, but effective.
Sonja Gaudet has learned to use the off-side brace that I've been
advocating for several years now, and that has been adapted and added to
each of Team Alberta's chairs by Coach Tony Zummack, who thinks it will
be standard equipment for everyone soon..
Sweden looked frustrated and dispirited losing their first three games
before switching skip Jalle Jungnell with Glenn Ikonen. They then beat
USA and Canada in a 5-1 streak to earn a tiebreak with Italy before
Ikonen was suspended for failing a drug test.. As only one team member
was involved, Sweden were allowed to continue with their alternate
Patrik Kallin at 2nd, Jalle moving back to last rocks.
Though Jungnell's shooting stayed in the mid 40s they went on to beat
Italy and win bronze over USA, who fell just short again but played with
more cohesion than last year. Skip Perez is maturing, has a rock steady
delivery and will only get better as he learns more about calling the
Italy were the surprise team. Their last draw win over Canada earned
them a tie-break against Sweden, they had an All-Star at 3rd, and were
the only team to shoot over 60%.
Great Britain went 3-6 again. It seems obvious that throwing back from
the hogline reduces accuracy, but with so much time, money and probably
reputation tied up in Coach Pendreigh's experiment, it may take, if not
exile to England, then a change in personnel before a mistake is
Norway imported Dane Per Christensen as coach, but though they played
Canada tough and beat Korea, they never overcame the fragility that
surrendered a final end six and the lead to Germany in the opening draw.
Norway have concentrated their resources on a small player pool which
makes it tough to make changes to recapture the form that won back to
back Worlds just two years ago.
Germany were one of five teams finishing at 3-6. Everything went their
way last year, and a bump back to earth may be what is needed for them
to move forward. Switzerland and Japan will meet again at the end of
this year at the 2011 Worlds Qualifying Tournament.
There were enthusiastic crowds in Vancouver and some coverage on
ParalympicSport.tv, where some games are archived. The promised daily
"Insider" insights from the CCA never materialised, - an opportunity
missed to publicise the sport at minimal expense.
A final thought on the national team. They worked hard and deserve their
success. I just wish I felt better about the process Canada used to put
the team together. If Jim Armstrong's selection did not break the letter
of the law it sailed uncomfortably close to the edge of the spirit of
the law. For some, and for Own The Podium who waved the large
chequebook, it was all about winning. Recruiting Jim to skip was
perceived as the only way that Canada could guarantee a win.
I think that's sad.
The Canadian National Wheelchair Curling Championships were held in
Kelowna at the same time as the Paralympics. It was a decision forced on
the CCA by lack of alternative, but one that guaranteed that no-one
outside of participants, family and friends paid any attention.
The problem was finding a host site. Ten teams of wheelchair curlers
present significant logistical challenges to any host committee. In
another splendidly organised event, this year's co-chairs Gerry
Austgarden and Deanna Tuokko had the advantages of proximity of the host
hotel to the curling club, the space for 50 plus wheelchairs to
manoeuvre inside the club, a schedule that avoided a three draw day, and
almost perfect weather.
Experience showed in the results. The top three teams all had ex-Team
Canada players throwing fourth stones, and the teams that reached the
play-offs, the BC teams, Alberta and Manitoba, have the longest record
of participation in what is now a nine draw Championship.
BC fielded two teams: Team BC, the provincial champions, and the runners
up with Gary Cormack skipping a make up the numbers BC Host team.
Cormack seemed very relaxed during the week, saying he was "quietly
confident" he could beat Team BC. "We beat them in the Provincial round
robin," he reminded me.
True to his word, BC Host beat BC 7-1 in the round-robin and 6-4 in the
final. It was good to see Host team 2nd Vince Miele win his title on his
on-ice performance, rather than physical proximity to the winning team.
He's been around since the earliest days and his perseverance won a just
reward. 3rd Rich Green and alternating leads Corinne Jensen and Samantha
Sui also played their part.
Team BC's Gerry Austgarden will feel disappointed to have fallen just
short, losing draw weight at crucial moments. BC lead Alison Duddy
played well after just a year curling. Teammate Frank Labounty drove
from Prince George to Quesnel throughout the season to coach at her
Manitoba's Chris Sobkowicz probably felt, as I did, that this would be
his breakthrough year, but was victimised when Gerry Austgarden threw a
perfect Plan B freeze that began life as a dubious double tap-back.
Most teams would be delighted with another bronze, but not, I suspect
Manitoba. They barely raised a smile all week before claiming three of
the four places on the All-Star team. Chris even refused to shake hands
with a member of one team that beat them.
Alberta lost their page play-off the same way they lost last year's
final, on a last rock hit that rolled an inch too far. Though Anne
Hibberd stepped up at 3rd, and Martin Purvis won All-Star at second (he
was probably the most improved player over last year) it was clear that
Jack missed Bruno Yizek's presence on the ice.
There was a noticeable ability gap between the top three teams and the
six teams with losing records. For Ontario it was their first nine-draw
tournament, and if they can get past tough provincial opposition next
year, they will benefit from this year's experience. Moving skip Bruce
Cameron to third for the harder throwing Doug Morris helped but the
whole team's statistics suffered as the week wore on.
Nova Scotia proved they can play by being the only team to beat BC Host.
They also beat Alberta and lost narrowly to BC and Manitoba. Their
problem was losses to bottom of the table Newfoundland and Quebec.
Saskatchewan and Northern Ontario brought the same players but failed to
improve on last year. Northern Ontario lost to Ontario 7-5 and had to
surrender the John McCrae Trophy, a task handled with grace by their
second, Chester Draper, who won the event's Sportsmanship Trophy.
Quebec had a horrible start that dented skip Ben Lessard's confidence,
but won their last two games, which made it all the more disappointing
that the three male team members chose to leave a day early and did not
attend the banquet.
Newfoundland and Labrador brought the same team, minus Chris Daw, with
predictable results. With three women on the team it should be possible
to grow their provincial program, given that the stumbling block for
most provinces is difficulty attracting female curlers.
BC remain the only province to have won a National Championship, albeit
with a Host team rather than their provincial Champions. An additional
BC foursome winning gold in Vancouver is testament to the comparative
depth of talent in the province.
Eric Eales - Kelowna,