If the WCF were structuring wheelchair curling from
scratch, using the experience of the past ten years, the sport would, or
perhaps more personally, should look very different. It really doesn't
convert from the able-bodied game with any authenticity. Lack of
sweeping not only removes a major purpose of the four person team
format, but reduces the range of available shots and the possibility for
shot accuracy that viewers of regular curling expect.
While shot clocks and time constraints have helped, two and a half hour
8 end games are still lengthy investments in a sport rarely achieving
60% accuracy. Of course, coaches continue to hope that with more and
better practice, throwing skills will increase, and at every tournament
brave words are spoken at microphones, praising the skill of the
competitors as we spectators remember the shots that succeed while
quickly forgetting the underthrows and overthrows.
It is my feeling that accuracy levels have plateaued for the best
wheelchair curlers, at a point far below what can be achieved when using
Wheelchair curling in Canada is in a difficult place. It has failed to
capture the imagination of wheelchair users, perhaps because for many
there is just too much on-ice down time. The sport is driven by the
perceived requirement to field a competitive national team, forcing
inappropriate 4 person mixed gender teams that stifle growth while
coaches pretend that performance will continue to improve given time.
The national team is run as a private club with no public or plausible
pathway to membership for anyone outside of the small group of Western
Canadians presently serviced with money and coaching to win medals.
But that offers an opportunity for the rest of Canada to ignore a system
that ignores them, and start a sport that answers many of the present
Redefine wheelchair curling as a two person a team sport, where you are
either throwing or skipping, and not sitting around pretending your
stopwatch is supplying useful information.
Decide who can play. Should it be just full-time wheelchair users, or
people who could not otherwise curl without a wheelchair, or anyone
sitting in a wheelchair? Avoid the eligibility voodoo and counting of
angels on pin heads that Kate Caithness presented to such a sceptical if
not hostile reception at the WCF's Meeting last Spring. You either need
a wheelchair always, or always on the ice, or not at all.
Ignore the still developing "stick curling" rules which inexplicably
allow some sweeping. Keep the "one end throwing, one end skipping"
Then decide whether to stay with 8 rocks an end, or 6, or 6 with two
rocks pre-placed by the house or some other combination that holds games
to around an hour. Four wheelchair curlers could play a 3 game round
robin in not much more time than one game of 4 person team curling.
Then come up with a bracing solution for the throwers. Opponents could
brace, but able-bodied volunteer rock wranglers might be needed.
Then reduce the length of the sheet for every second under 14 that it
takes a T-line line draw to travel between the hoglines. If it takes a
10 second heave to reach the T-line, the game is corrupted. You can't
change the ice; you can change the throwing position to compensate.
And finally when time clocks are available, set a time limit, and
penalise a point for every minute used over the limit.
Perhaps I am dreaming, but the present system seems a dead end, designed
and run for unnecessarily narrow ends. It excludes all but a pampered
few, pays no attention to the development of the sport across Canada and
offers no opportunity for outside influence.
If the national program exists outside of the sponsorship of provincial
associations, they should feel no obligation participate in it.
Had the people who initially decided to create the sport had the
opportunity to see how their initiative has been drowned by a national
thirst for international medals, they might have made different
What we need is a sport that answers the desire for winter recreation
for wheelchair users. Wheelchair curling as presently defined fails, so
needs to change.
August 28, 2010