Monday, December 29, 2008

Team USA to see in new year at training camp

Cape Cod CC members Russ Lemcke, Fred Flynn, Frank Balas and Todd Benedict
Team USA Augusto Perez, James Pierce, Jacqui Kapinowski and Jimmy Joseph.
Team USA will celebrate the new year in Falmouth, MA, hosted by the Cape Cod CC. They'll begin with a challenge match starting at 3.30 December 31st and train with the club's wheelchair team through January 3rd.

Anyone interested in watching the team that won a bronze medal at the 2008 Worlds prepare for the 2009 event, is invited to the club. For more information visit or call Mary Colacchio at 617-529-4534

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Northern Ontario planning cross border challenge

John Cameron reports in the Chronicle Journal that as many as 20 curlers are turning out at the Fort William Curling Club, and there will be a playdown February 1-3 for the right to play in the 2009 Nationals.

The MEDIChair Wheelchair Curling Association (way to go on the sponsorship, guys) is also planning a cross border challenge in Grand Marais, Minnesota, with the equally active Duluth team on, Jan. 17.

If you would like to be part of either a recreational or competitive team, call Dave Kawahara at 577-5818 or the Fort William club at 622-5377.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Press preview the new Hillcrest 2010 curling facility

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo/Vancouver Sun
The 2009 World Wheelchair Curling Championships will be the first event held at the brand new Olympic facility in the Hillcrest district of Vancouver, and Jim Armstrong and Georgina Wheatcroft were on hand at the press preview. [read Vancouver Sun coverage]

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Deadline Monday December 22nd for BC playdowns

CurlBC have finally abandoned selection camps, this year allowing a playdown to decide who goes to the 2009 Nationals in Halifax in March.

The deadline for registration is Monday December 22, and competition is slated to take place in Vernon, January 16-18.

Because of the mandate for mixed gender teams, participation is restricted by the number of women available to play. Four teams, including Jim Armstrong's 2008 national champions, are expected, and by agreement with Team Canada coaches, no more than two TC squad members may play on any one team.

Teams (unconfirmed):
Jim Armstrong, Frank LaBounty, Whitney Warren, Jackie Roy
Darryl Neighbour, Ina Forrest, Bob MacDonald, Rich Green
Gerry Austgarden, Sonja Gaudet, Ron Vaselenak, Cyril Kinakin/Jim Miller
Gary Cormack. Bill Lindstrom, Roy Crawford, Corinne Jensen

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Team Canada "not a closed shop" as 2009 version named

The additional two week wait is over and the coaches have finally announced the line-up for Team Canada 2009. As predicted in my November 27th post it is:

Jim Armstrong  (Richmond BC)
Darryl Neighbour  (Richmond BC)
Ina Forrest  (Armstrong BC)
Chris Sobkowicz  (Winnipeg MB)
Sonja Gaudet - (Vernon BC) alternate
Joe Rea (Prince George BC)  coach   Playing positions not yet decided.

The team includes three players from Team Canada 2008 (Darryl, Ina and Sonja) with Sonja the only holdover from the 2006 Torino gold medal team.

In a telephone interview shortly after the announcement, Team Director Gerry Peckham made the following points:

*There was very little to choose between any of the candidates, and the delay in announcing the team was to give the coaches additional opportunities to observe the players in meaningful competition.

*Sonja Gaudet earned her place with her performance, though there would have been a bias towards taking two women to avoid the risk of default were one to become injured.

*There was no regional bias at all. The coaches saw no problem with having an all-BC team. Chris Sobkowicz earned his place by his performance.

*Though a sports psychologist works with the team and has input in coaching discussions, team dynamics within the squad were excellent, with every player happy to work for the team, and with any other player.

*This team has been selected for the 2009 Worlds only. The squad of eight will be retained and may even be enlarged next year as several people not currently on the squad have caught the attention of TC coaches.

*The squad will start with a clean slate after the Worlds and will have to compete for their place on the 2010 Paralympics side.

*Team Canada is not a closed shop - any player, or player's coach, who feels that TC coaches should evaluate their performance are encouraged to contact either Joe Rea or Wendy Morgan (or Gerry himself.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pushing a ton of granite - for charity

Jim Taylor, an a wheelchair user since an accident playing rugby and now a keen curler, is today pushing a ton of granite for a mile in a sponsored charity appeal.  Here's what he says (thanks Bob Cowan):

As a keen curler, I am going to push a tonne of granite on a mile of ice to support The Hearts and Heroes Challenge, run by the Sportsman's Charity, with Poppyscotland and Scotland's rugby charity for disabled players, Hearts & Balls. Scottish Rugby's Murrayfield Centenary Fund will also be a beneficiary.

This involves me throwing 50 x 20kg (=44lb) curling stones (they weigh a tonne and I'm not kidding..!) on 75 consecutive lengths of ice. I'm stopping at 80 to be sure....

Please sponsor me to do this. But don't stop there. have a look at the website and think about entering a team or visit this link to see the fantastic sponsorship opportunities from £100 to £5000+.

I appreciate that times are hard, but for disabled sportsmen and service personnel, recession is a long term prospect!

Many, many thanks,  Jim Taylor

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No changes as Team Scotland 2009 announced

Bob Cowan, in his Curling Today blog, reports the announcement of Team Scotland 2009. There's no change from the team that tied for last place at 3-6 in Sursee, Switzerland inn 2008.

The same players competed as Great Britain in the recent Richmond Cashspiel: Michael McCreadie (skip), Aileen Nielson, Tom Killin, Jim Sellar and Rosemary Lenton, with coach Tom Pendreigh. [Read more on the Scottish selection]

"Wheelchair Watch" column in SWEEP! Magazine (December 08)

My "Wheelchair Watch" column for the December issue of SWEEP! Magazine is now available online.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sport surging in Nova Scotia prior to 2009 Canadian Nationals

The Lakeshore CC in Lower Sackville NS will host the 2009 Canadian National Championships on March, and expects a record number of provinces to compete. Programs in Saskatchewan, Quebec and  Newfoundland/Labrador hope to have teams ready to join the seven who participated in the 2008 event in Winnipeg MB.

Also growing is the local wheelchair curling program at the Lakeshore; so much so that the recreational program has doubled in size and moved from Mondays to Fridays for better ice availability. The competitive squad now has eleven members and the Provincial team will be selected from this group in January.  New curlers are always welcome. For more information call Laughie Rutt at 902-864-2737.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Wheelchair curling the roller derby of curling"

Jim Armstrong, in an interview with Don Fennell of the Richmond Review says: "Wheelchair curling is also very, very challenging and the level of play is just going to become greater. I’ve only been involved a year-and-a-half and I’d venture to say our Canadian group that we draw from is at least 15 per cent better mechanically than when I started and the results show it......

“I play quite a lot with Darryl Neighbour here, many times a week, and he’s as good as there is mechanically. You can’t teach experience and that makes the situation a little more complicated. There are very few players here that have any real curling background to draw from ... Able-bodied curling has gotten so good over the past few years since the free guard zone rule that there’s a potential risk of having a 1-0 game in a meaningful event. I call wheelchair curling the roller derby of curling because there’s always spills, action and enough misses to keep it interesting. No lead is ever safe.”  Read full article.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Team Canada 2009 announcement delayed again - new date December 17

The eight member Team Canada squad had been told that they would know ten days ago which five players would wear the Maple Leaf at the 2009 Worlds. That date was changed to the conclusion of the Richmond spiel. Today they were informed that they would be told by telephone  next Wednesday, December 17th.

The reason for the continued delay is not clear, even given that statistically there is little to choose between the candidates beyond (in my opinion) Armstrong, Neighbour and Forrest. Did performances at the Richmond event suggest the need for a rethink?

Will past practice be followed with two women making the squad? Will non-BC members Chris Sobkowicz and Bruno Yizek be included to give them the benefit of meaningful international competition prior to 2010? Or a compromise - Sonja Gaudet plus either Chris or Bruno? Or will experience win out and Gary Cormack and Gerry Austgarden hold on to their spots?

With six of the squad from BC and entries for the BC playdowns for the Canadian Nationals due by December 22, the choice has implications for BC's playdown teams who will be allowed only two Team Canada members on any one side.

You can add your choice for Team Canada 2009 by adding a comment to the couple of dozen guesses already posted on the December 10th Blog post.

Alberta steal $1,500 1st prize at Richmond International Cashspiel

Alberta proved that their round robin record was no fluke by stealing in the 8th and again in an extra end to post a 7-6 victory over Canada II's Jim Armstrong in the $5,000 Richmond International Cashspiel this afternoon.

Alberta      1  0  0  1  1  0  2  1  1   =  7
Canada II    0  1  2  0  0  3  0  0  0   =  6

Here's a report from an  anonymous spectator:

Armstrong loses!!!!   Alberta, with a couple of fortunate breaks in the early going, stole the 8th and extra end to beat Armstrong.

On the 8th, Armstrong made a 20 foot runback to spill one of two off the button to salvage a tie. On the extra, Armstrong had a hit and roll off his own rock on the side of the four foot. He needed a two foot roll, but only got about a foot, leaving Alberta with the steal.  Very entertaining....

Great Britain failed to recover from the disappointment of their semi-final loss, bowing to Richmond 10-6 in the 3 v 4 game, Vince Miele throwing 4th rocks.

In the consolation games Canada I beat Manitoba 10-2, and Scotland beat Victoria 7-5.

Final standings
1 Alberta      $1,500
2 Canada II   $1,000
3 Richmond    $750
4 Great Britain $400

Photographs from the event will be available at the Richmond Centre for Disability's website.

$5,000 Richmond International Cashspiel Semi-Final

The final day of the 2nd Annual Richmond International Cashspiel saw round robin winners Alberta blank 4th place hosts Richmond 15-0 in 6 ends in the first semi-final. Armstrong's Canada II squad took just 7 ends to defeat Michael McCreadie's Great Britain team 13-5 in the other semi-final.

Alberta will play Armstrong for the trophy and the $1500 1st prize. Richmond plays Great Britain for 3rd.

Alberta 15-0 (6 ends) Richmond
Canada II (Armstrong) 13-5 (7ends) Great Britain

Alberta v. Canada II

3rd place
Great Britain v. Richmond

With $50 at stake for each game won during the week, the other teams also played this morning, Manitoba edging Victoria 6-5 and Austgarden beating
Scotland 12-4

For team line-ups see entry for Day 1 December 10

The sponsors, Hosting BC, the Rick Hanson Foundation, the City of Richmond and the Richmond Centre for Disability, not only provided for a cash prize pool of $5,000 but also gave travel grants of $2,000 to the British team and $750 each to Alberta and Manitoba to help defray expenses. Victoria also received assistance from Hanson's Wheels in Motion.

Photographs from the event will eventually be available at the Richmond Centre for Disability's website.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Richmond International - Day 3

Alberta took first place after round robin play on the strength of a tournament best score in the team "draw to the button" test in Draw 3. Their overall mark of 5-2 was tied with Great Britain and Canada II and they will play host team Richmond in tomorrow's semi-final.

  Team       Won  Lost  Button  Distance
1 Alberta     4     2     Win     143"
2 GB          4     2     Win     230"
3 Canada II   5     1     Loss    283"
4 Richmond    4     2     Loss    291"
5 Canada I    2     4     Win     156"
6 Manitoba    2     4     Win     262"
7 Victoria    2     4     Loss    213"
8 Scotland    1     5     Loss    279"

Jim Armstrong chalked up another two wins but because his team's "draw to the button" skills test in Draw 3 was played head to head, their dismal seventh best scoring counted as a loss to Manitoba. Michael McCreadie's Great Britain squad showed some signs of life after struggling for much of the season, and will face Armstrong in tomorrow's semi-final.

Gerry Austgarden's Canada 1 team redeemed themselves with two wins, though it took an extra end for them to put away Manitoba.

Draw 6 - morning
Victoria  0-13 (5 ends) Canada II (Armstrong)
Scotland  4-8  Canada 1 (Austgarden)
Manitoba  9-6  Great Britain
Richmond  8-7  Alberta

Draw 7 - afternoon
Manitoba 7-9 (extra) Canada 1 (Austgarden)
Richmond  6-10  Canada II (Armstrong)
Victoria  0-7 (6 ends) Great Britain
Scotland 4-9  Alberta

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Richmond International - Day 2

At the end of the second day of the Richmond International Cashspiel, Jim Armstrong's Canada II is tied with Richmond, Great Britain and Alberta at 3-1, with Victoria 2-2 and Scotland and Manitoba 1-3. Gerry Ausgarden's Canada I squad has yet to record a win though they posted the second best "draw to the button" score in the "skills" element yesterday.

Draw 4 - morning
Canada II (Armstrong) 13-0 Scotland
Victoria  8-2  Canada I (Austgarden)
Alberta  10-4  Manitoba
Great Britain 10-1  Richmond

Draw 5 - afternoon
Great Britain 9-5  Canada II (Armstrong)
Alberta 10-4  Canada I  (Austgarden)
Manitoba  2-6  Scotland
Victoria 5-9 Richmond

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Richmond International - Day 1

Consistent with the coaches' insistence that no decision has yet been made about which of the eight squad members competing in Richmond will become Team Canada 2009, Canada I is being skipped by Gerry Austgarden while Jim Armstrong skips Canada II.

In the morning draw Great Britain beat Austgarden 8-4, while Armstrong beat Alberta 12-3. It took Manitoba an extra end to defeat Victoria 8-6, and Richmond beat Scotland 6-5.

In the afternoon Armstrong beat Austgarden 11-6, Richmond beat Manitoba 7-6, Victoria beat Scotland 10-4 and Alberta beat Great Britain 9-5.

Draw 3 was a short session "skills" competition. Each team member drew to the button with the cumulative distance from the button determining the winner: Austgarden (156") over Richmond (291"), Manitoba (262") over Armstrong (283"), Alberta (143") beat Victoria (213") and Great Britain (230") beat Scotland (279").

Canada I

Great Britain


Gerry Austgarden Michael McCreadie Jack Smart Dennis Thiesen
Gary Cormack Aileen Neilson Anne Hibberd Michael Alberg
Chris Sobkowicz Tom Killin Jackie Roy Arlene Ursel
Sonja Gaudet James Sellar Bridget Wilson Terry Lindell
Tony Zummack

Canada II



Jim Armstrong Michael McKenzie Bob Macdonald Mark Wherrett
Darryl Neighbour Rosemary Lenton Rich Green Bill Lindstrom
Bruno Yizek Gregor Ewan Vince Miele Roy Crawford
Ina Forrest Gillian Keith Samantha Sui Corinne Jensen
Tom Parker

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

2nd Annual Richmond (BC) International begins Dec 10

Team Canada will face the British Paralympic squad during the four day Richmond (BC) International starting tomorrow. With the delayed announcement of which five players will become Team Canada 2009, this event will be a last chance for the eight person training squad to impress the coaches.

Canada last faced the Brits in October at a spiel in Kinross, Scotland which ended in a Canada/Canada final.

Completing the eight team field in Richmond are teams from Alberta, Manitoba and two local club sides.

Monday, December 8, 2008

USA announces team for 2009 Worlds and Vancouver 2010

To no great surprise the on-ice curlers who won America's first medal at the World level last March, have been chosen to represent their country at the 2009 Worlds, and pending approval by the US Olympics Committee, the 2010 Paralympics.

The team of skip Augusto (Goose) Perez, James Pierce, Jimmy Joseph and Jackie Kapinowski came through a three stage assessment that began with a formal try-out, and continued over spiels in Ottawa and Utica.

Newcomer Patrick McDonald, who had been skipping USA II, joins thee team as the sole west coast representative. CLICK HERE for more information.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

USA 1 need extra end but win U.S. Open

Augusto Perez avenged a round robin defeat by Bradford, Ontario's Ken Gregory in the first semi-final of the 2nd Annual U.S. Open in Utica, NY today, but he needed an extra end to prevail 7-6 in 9 ends. Bruce Cameron's Ottawa team beat Great Britain I by 9-5 in the other semi.

In the final USA I beat Cameron 7-2 for the gold medal, with Gregory beating Great Britain 1 for bronze.

Great Britain now travel to British Columbia to compete in the 8 team Richmond International against Team Canada, Alberta, Manitoba and two BC club sides. GB, which is essentially a Scottish squad, have struggled for some time after finishing tied for last place at the 2008 Worlds. They still have players with a great deal of experience, and their funding enables them to travel. It will be interesting to see whether they can raise their game in Richmond or will plead continued experimentation in preparation for 2010 to explain what to their fans is a worrying lack of success. At some point a team has to prove to themselves they can win, and the Scots may be leaving it a little late.

U.S. Open - Day 2

Day 2 of the 2nd Annual U.S. Open saw 3 draws, with USA I suffering their first defeat, and Bruce Cameron's Ottawa team seeding #2 in Sunday's playoff.

Draw 3 results
Cameron 4-8 Gregory

Draw 4 results
GB I 7-2 GB II
USA II 3-7 Cameron
USA I 7-9 Gregory

Draw 5 results
GB I 4-7 Cameron
GB II 7-7 Gregory

Friday, December 5, 2008

U.S. Open begins in Utica NY

The 2nd annual U.S. Open, featuring the Great Britain Paralympic squad, began today at the Utica Curling Club, NY. Both US teams posted two wins in the opening draws.

Draw 1 results
USA I 11-2 GB I
USA II 11-3 Gregory (Bradford ON)
Cameron (Ottawa ON) 9-4 GB II

Draw 2 results
USA I 7-5 Cameron
GB I 7-6 Gregory

USA I - Perez, Pierce, Joseph, Kapinowski
USA II - McDonald, Heathcoat, Dorsett, Delano
Ottawa - Cameron, Morris, Eddy, Lavallee
Bradford - Gregiry, Cannerella, Joseph, Palalunga
GB I - Neilson, McCreadie. Ewan, Keith
GB II - Sellar, Killin, Lenton, McKenzie

Canada, played in Ottawa last weekend and will play in Richmond BC next week so did not attend this event, which Great Britain won last year.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

CCA ad from the 2008/9 issue of Extra End

Team Canada announcement delayed

The announcement of the members of Team Canada 2009 has been delayed until Saturday December 13th, at the banquet at the Richmond International spiel, as happened last year.

The eight squad members had been told that they would know today, and the reason for the delay is unclear. Possibly Joe Rea, who did not travel to Ottawa for the Cathy Kerr, needed additional time to see them play. Or it might have been felt that announcing the team before Richmond would adversely affect the performance of those not chosen. Whatever the reason, as of today the proposed line-ups in Richmond are:

Armstrong, Neighbour, Forrest, Yitzek
Austgarden, Cormack, Sobkowicz, Gaudet
It should be noted that the proposed line-ups changed shortly before the Ottawa event.

This does, however, allow more time for those yet to cast their ballot for Team Canada 2009. Please do so in the comments section in the post below this one.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Who do you pick for Team Canada 2009?

The members of Team Canada 2009 will be announced Saturday December 9th. The candidates in alphabetical order are:

Jim Armstrong, Gerry Austgarden, Gary Cormack, Ina Forrest, Sonja Gaudet, Darryl Neighbour, Chris Sobkowicz, Bruno Yizek

Who do you think will make the team - Skip through lead, plus alternate?

GB begin North American tour at US Open in Utica Dec 5-7

The Great Britain Paralympic squad will begin their North American tour at the 2nd US Open in Utica this weekend. Two British team will compete against the two US teams that played last weekend in Ottawa. Two Ontario teams, Cameron from Ottawa and Gregory from Bradford round out the six team field.

The Brits then travel to BC and will face Team Canada 2009, who are to be selected tomorrow (December 4th), at the Richmond International spiel starting December 9th.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Quebec to compete at 2009 Canadian Nationals

Quebec wheelchair curlers, based at the Lennoxville CC in Sherbrooke, learned today that their winning participation in the recreational division of the Cathy Kerr in Ottawa has led to sponsorship for a trip to the 2009 Canadian Nationals.

Club member Al Whittier, who has been the force behind the program, was delighted. "We were all inspired by seeing the Ottawa ice-sheets full of wheelchairs," he said when he phoned us the news. "And we already have a woman who drove to Ottawa to watch what was happening, and who will coming out to a practice. We need female curlers and she asked about training."

This brings up a point that I have been making for several years. If curling wants to attract committed athletes there must be answers to intelligent questions, like what will be my time commitment to excel, what coaching is available, and what is my path to representative competition.

As far as I know there is still no "Path To Excellence" type brochure that lays out the support serious athletes will expect from a sport attempting to get them to commit their time and energy.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Angie Malone skips to British Open win

photo courtesy Bob Cowan

Bob Cowan reports that Angie Malone, who fans will remember played lead for Frank Duffy at the 2006 Torino Paralympics, skipped her team of Ian Donaldson, Jim Elliot and Jim Taylor to a 6-4 win over Jim Gault to win the British Open Championship at Kinross this weekend.

USA I denies Canada I a perfect record with tie in final draw at Cathy Kerr

The final day's action, two 6-end draws, began at 8.30am and saw Canada I beat Fraser 13-1 and Canada II beat USA II 7-4.

The final draw featured the marquee match-up, Armstrong against USA I's Perez. It ended honours even in a 4-4 tie.

Canada I  - 1 0 0 1 2 0
USA I*...  - 0 1 1 0 0 2

Canada II beat Fraser 7-2.

Overall winners - Canada I - Armstrong, Neighbour, Forrest and Cormack

Recreational winners - Lennoxville Quebec - Ben Lasard, Carl Marquis, Jacques Martin and Denis Paradis.

Draw 6 Sunday 8:30 AM

Cameron 5-3 Gregory
Canada II 7-4 USA II
USA 1 5-5 Rees
Canada I  13-1  Fraser

Draw 7 Sunday 11 AM

Cameron 0-6  USA II
Fraser  2-7  Canada II
Rees 4-2 Gregory
Canada 1  4-4  USA I

Ottawa (Michel) 2-7  Lennoxville (Lessard)
Ottawa (Wong-Sing) 4-4  London (Bell)


1. Canada I -  6-0-1
2. Canada II - 6-1-0
3. Rees (Toronto) 4-2-1
4. USA I   -   4-1-2
=5. USA II  2-5-0
=5. Cameron (Ottawa)  2-5-0
=5. Gregory (Bradford)  2-5-0
8. Fraser  0-7-0

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Canada I at 5-0. Austgarden avenges USA bronze defeat

The last time Gerry Austgarden faced USA skip 'Goose' Perez he was shaking hands after lead stones in the final end of the game that gave USA their first World Championship medal. In Draw 3 this morning revenge was sweet as he led Canada II to a 8-6 win over USA I.  Canada I remained unbeaten with a 10-4 win over Bradford.

In Draw 4 this afternoon Canada I raised their record to 4-0 with a 12-4 win over Cameron, while Canada II beat Chris Rees' Toronto 6-2.  

In Draw 5 this evening Canada I  beat Rees 12-4 and Canada II beat  Cameron 8-2.

Draw 3  Saturday 8:30 AM

Cameron 13-0 Fraser
Canada I  10-4  Gregory
USA II  5-10 Rees
Canada II  8-6  USA 1

Draw 4 Saturday 1 PM

USA II 3-8 USA 1
Rees 2-8  Canada II
Fraser 3-15 Gregory
Canada I  12-4  Cameron

Ottawa (Wong-Sing) 2 Lennoxville (Lessard) 7
London (Bell) 5 Ottawa (Michel) 4

Draw 5 Saturday 4:30 PM

Canada II  8-2 Cameron
Gregory 5-9  USA 1
Rees 2-10  Canada 1
USA 2  13-2   Ottawa

Ottawa (Wong-Sing) 7 Ottawa (Michel) 5
London (Bell) 3 Lennoxville (Lessard) 14

Friday, November 28, 2008

Canada I over Canada II at Cathy Kerr

Both Team Canada squads had solid wins in the morning draw. Canada 1 blanked USA II by 15-0, and Canada II beat Bradford 9-5.

In the afternoon draw Canada I skipped by Jim Armstrong, beat Gerry Austgarden's Canada II by a score of 8-2.

Here are the full Day 1 results

Draw 1 - Friday 1 pm

Can 1 (Armstrong) 15 - USA II (MacDonald) 0
Can II (Austgarden) 9 - Bradford (Gregory) 5
Toronto (Rees) 7 - Ottawa (Cameron) 4
USA I (Perez) 18 - Ottawa (Fraser) 2

Draw 2 Friday 4:30PM

USA 1 (Perez) 9 - Ottawa (Cameron) 4
Can 1 (Armstrong) 8 - CanII (Austgarden) 2
Bradford (Gregory) 9 - USA II (MacDonald) 3
Toronto (Rees) 9 - Ottawa (Fraser) 6

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Canada and USA line-ups for Cathy Kerr announced

Canada and USA have announced their teams for the 3 day Ottawa spiel starting tomorrow.

Canada I - Armstrong (skip), Neighbour, Forrest, and Cormack all from BC.
Canada II - Austgarden (skip BC), Yizek (AB), Sobkowicz (MB) and Gaudet (BC)

USA I - Perez (skip NY), Pierce (NY), Joseph (NY) and Kapinowski (NJ)
USA II - McDonald (Skip CA), Heathcoat (WI), Dorsett (PA) and Delano (NY)

Canadian coach Wendy Morgan was at pains to point out that their teams did not indicate who would represent Canada at the 2009 Worlds. That decision  will be announced next week so that the team can play together at the Richmond International spiel the following weekend.

Armstrong, Neighbour, and Forrest are favourites to make the cut, with Gaudet the alternate if coach Rea follows past practice of including two women. That would leave Torino gold medallists Austgarden and Cormack competing with Yizek and Sobkowicz for the remaining front end position. Performance this weekend will influence selection, but all things being equal the vote may go to Sobkowicz in a move away from an all-BC team. Have an opinion? Post it in the comments.

The USA trials last weekend was the major factor in deciding which 8 athletes would compete in Ottawa. USA I, bronze medallists  at the 2008 Worlds, appear to have weathered the challenge of 6 other athletes though a final decision on the 2009 Team USA will not be officially announced until December 14th, after the US Open.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Canada and USA meet in Ottawa at Cathy Kerr - Nov 28-30

The 4th Annual Cathy Kerr Memorial bonspiel has expanded to 3 days and 8 competitive teams plus 4 others who will play in the social division. Two teams from each of the national Canadian and USA squads will compete against the top four Ontario teams. Games will be held at the RA Centre and the Nepean Sportsplex. Click HERE for a full schedule (pdf)

Wheelchair curling, in a league of their own

Corrinna Pole writes in The Record (Sherbrooke, QUE): Last year, a Wheelchair curling program, the first of its kind in the province, was a pilot project at Lennoxville's Curling Club. Now the team is even closer to becoming a full league with high hopes of branching out.

"Wheelchair curling is nonexistent in Quebec but other provinces have it," said Lennoxville's Alfred Whittier, who has years of experience instructing handicapped athletes. "Our aim is to form a Quebec competitive team to represent the province in Canadian tournaments." [read more]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Wheelchair Watch" column in SWEEP! Magazine (November 08)

My "Wheelchair Watch" column for the November 2008 issue of SWEEP! magazine is now available online at this link

Have-A-Go Day in Langley BC on November 29

National Champion skip and Team Canada member Darryl Neighbour will be hosting a Have-A-Go day at Langley, November 29th from 12-3pm

"Come try this sport in a welcoming, non-competitive environment geared toward new participants. You just come and have Fun!" Contact CurlBC for more information.

Jim Armstrong profiled in The Province

On delivering a rock from a wheelchair with a stick, Armstrong said: "The feel eventually comes through. But what I was used to was doing it from the hack to the hogline [before letting go of the rock]. Now I'm doing it in two feet."

[read full article]

Germany and China qualify for 2009 Worlds

Germany stole their way to a win over Russia in the 1 v. 2 Page playoff game at the Worlds Qualifying tournament in Prague, to claim the first of two slots at the 2009 Worlds in Vancouver next February. Though Russia stole singles in the first two ends, Germany stole 3 in the 4th, and singles in the 5th and 6th on their way to a 6-5 win.

In the 3 v. 4 game the host Czechs started with the hammer and took 2 from China, but that was to be the end of their dream as they gave up 5 in the second and failed to score the rest of the way as China ran out 11-2 winners in seven ends.

Russia then played China for the second qualifying slot, but despite having the hammer, only managed a consolation single in the 7th end, China winning 13-1.

for live line scores. CLICK HERE for WCF report

Germany and China will join Norway, Korea, USA, Canada, Italy, Sweden, Scotland and Switzerland In Vancouver.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Germany top after round robin at Worlds Qualifying

Germany (8-1) topped the 10 team field after round robin play at the qualifying tournament for the final two places at the 2009 Worlds in Vancouver next February.

Hosts Czech Republic, 2008 Worlds competitor Russia and China, who gave Germany their only defeat, were all 7-2 and will play in the Page play-off Thursday.

Germany v. Russia - winner takes first qualifying spot, loser plays winner of China v. Czech Republic for the second qualifying spot.

CLICK HERE for live line scores.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Worlds Qualifying all week in Prague

Ten teams are competing in Prague at the World Wheelchair Curling Championship Qualifying Competition, for the final two places at the 2009 Worlds in Vancouver next February. After 7 draws of round robin competition, China, Germany and the Czech Republic are unbeaten. Sentimental favourite Japan, forced to qualify when their pre-tournament tie-break draw to the button at the 2008 Worlds lost by millimetres, are out of contention at 1-5.

CLICK HERE for live line scores. Click on the team names for participants. The website also has webcams on each sheet but I could not get access to them.

Teams and schedule (CET time which is 9 hours ahead of Pacific and 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time) can be downloaded as a Word document from this page.

The Page playoff final games are scheduled for Thursday November 20th.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cape Cod CC continues support for wheelchair curlers

Several wheelchair users took part in this weekend's charity spie at the Cape Cod CC, which raised $5,000 for a local group offering adaptive sports equipment to physically and mentally challenged people of all ages. [read report]

Club official Tony Colacchio, inspired, he told me, by a wheelchair curling column to include disabled access in the club's $500,000 renovation  plan, hopes they can attract a core group of wheelchair users to challenge for places on the USA national team.  

Norway take 2008 Rolli Cup in Bern

Norway, Sweden, Scotland and 5 teams from Switzerland competed in Bern for the 2008 Rolli Cup. Each pool of 4 teams played 3 round robin 6-end  games on Saturday. Norway (3-0) beat Scotland 12-2 in one semi-final while Lausanne Olympique (2-0-1) lost to Bern II  in the other.

In the final Norway  blanked Bern II by 8-0 while Scotland claimed bronze with a 10-2 win over Lausanne.

For complete details CLICK HERE

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ten compete for 2009 Team USA and 2010 Paralympics - UPDATED 11/16

CLICK HERE for video coverage of the first weekend of evaluation, and HERE for a News 10 Now report by Jim Gibbons.

Ten curlers from six different states will be competing over the next month for Team USA places for the 2009 Worlds and the 2010 Paralympics, both to be held in Vancouver.

Tryouts begin in Utica this weekend November 14-16, and evaluations will continue during the Cathy Kerr bonspiel in Ottawa November 28-30, and conclude at the USA Open in Utica December 5-7.

for a press release detailing who will be competing, and GO TO THIS PAGE and click on the 2010 Olympic Team Selection Link to download a detailed description of eligibility requirements and selection protocols.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Chris Daw recovering in hospital after ATV crash

Chris Daw is recovering from a broken hip in the Health Sciences Center in St. John's,  Newfoundland. He is expected to be there till Friday. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Update - November 24 - see comments for email from Chris

Chis Daw in happier days with the Torino Paralympics gold medal
he won as Team Canada skip

Saturday, November 1, 2008

San Francisco Bay Area CC has Team USA hopeful

Patrick McDonald, a member of the SF Bay Area Curling Club can be seen here practicing in hopes of qualifying for Team USA.

4th Annual Cathy Kerr Memorial bonspiel

Ottawa's Capitol Wheelchair Curling Club will host the 4th Annual Cathy Kerr Memorial bonspiel, November 28-30. Team Canada and Team USA will each field two teams and go head to head in their first match-up since the bronze medal game at the 2008 Worlds. Four Ontario teams, Rees, Cameron, Gregory and Fraser make up the eight team field.

The event will take place at the RA Curling Club and the Nepean Sportsplex. Contact Bruce Cameron for more information.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Wheelchair Watch" column in SWEEP! Magazine (October 2008)

As wheelchair curling matures, it is moving closer to the able-bodied game. Summer rule changes lifted the patronising 6-end limit and brought in time clocks to put a stop to 3 hour games. [read more]

USA male curler of the year profiled by News 10 Now, NY

Augusto 'Goose' Perez, skip of the 2009 Worlds bronze medal medalists is profiled in a news and video report. Perez lost a leg to a rare cancer, but his success in skipping Team USA to its first medal was recognised by his being named USA male curler of the year.

"It was happy and sad at the same time. It was happy because I got the award, but at the same time I don't think that they can pick one single person," he told reporter Jim Gibbons, going on to say that it's a team game, not won or lost by an individual effort.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Canada beat Canada in Kinross final

Canada 1 beat Canada 2 on a draw to the button, after seven ends of play saw the teams tied 5-5. Norway beat Great Britain 6-3 for 3rd place. Follow this link for a match report.

1st place -  Canada 1
Jim Armstrong, Gerry Austgarden,
Chris Sobkowicz, Sonja Gaudet
2nd place - Canada 2
Darryl Neighbour, Ina Forrest,
Bruno Yizek, Gary Cormack
3rd place - Norway
Jostein Stordahl, GeirArne Skogstad,
Anne Mette Samdal, Rune Lorensen
4th place - Great Britain
Tom Killin, Michael McCreadie,
Jim Sellar, Aileen Neilson
All photos courtesy of Royal Caledonian Curling Club

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Newfoundland and Labrador to compete at 2009 Nationals

Chris Daw,  ex-Team Canada skip who has relocated to St. John's, Newfoundland, says that his adopted province will compete for the first time at the 2009 Nationals in Nova Scotia.

Leslie Ann Walsh will coach the side, which will include Lanie Woodfine and Joanne McDonald who were on Team Atlantic at the 2008 event.

Daw is doubtful of the prospect of a return to the ice. " I am not to sure about playing anymore. I would like to think I still have the talent but I am not to sure about the time. I am helping the team develop a few skills, etc. but playing.....I think retirement is calling my name!"

Sonja Gaudet featured in Vancouver 2010 ad campaign

Team Canada lead and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is one of the athletes featured in the ICBC drive to raise money for Vancouver 2010 by selling special vehicle license plates. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jim Armstrong cleared to skip Canada at 2010 Paralympics

6-time Brier competitor Jim Armstrong, presently skipping a Canadian team at the Kinross International bonspiel in Scotland, met today with the WCF's eligibility classifier and the word is that he has been cleared to play in WCF events. Though the decision has not been officially announced, a highly placed CCA source confirmed the change, noting that Manitoba's Chris Sobkowicz, who also makes every effort not to limit his movement to his wheelchair while being unable to enter the ice without it, has been similarly declared eligible.

Armstrong was already eligible for Canadian competition and skipped BC to the 2008 national title, but had previously been denied eligibility for world events by the WCF. He will now be eligible to skip Team Canada at the 2009 Worlds in Vancouver and also the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics.

The issue of eligibility was discussed in this article. While it is not yet known what made the WCF change their minds on Armstrong, is is in all likelihood a recognition that his reliance on a wheelchair has increased in the past year as predicted in this news item.

Canadian teams lead after 3 games at Kinross

Both Canadian teams have 3-0 records after the second day at the Kinross International bonspiel. Russia withdrew which will complicate standings, and unpublished bonspiel rules allocate (tie-break?) points beyond won/loss records.
photo courtesy Bob Cowan
Canada skip Jim Armstrong delivers, braced by Chris Sobkowicz
and watched by Sonja Gaudet

Bob Cowan's Curling Today blog has several photos and the standings.
Pool 1

Canada 1 - 3 points
Norway 1 - 1 point (8 ends)
Switzerland - 1 point (6 ends and plus shots)
Scotland 2 - 1 point (6 ends minus 6 shots)
England - 0 points
Pool 2

Canada 2 - 3 points
Great Britain - 2 points
Scotland 2 - 1 point
Wales - 0 point

Monday, October 20, 2008

Quebec joins the party

Quebec is the latest province to boast an organized wheelchair curling program, with the action happening on Sunday mornings 10am to noon at the Lennoxville CC. Al Whittier, who has many years of experience working with disabled athletes on the ski slopes, is now working with a core group of curlers, several of whom have represented Canada at other sports.

The Lennoxville club will host a clinic on November 1st at 9 am run by CCA ambassador Guy Hemmings and ex-Team Canada skip Chris Daw. Local coaches as well as wheelchair users are invited to attend and learn about the wheelchair game in the hope they will spread the word throughout the province. Contact the club for more information.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Canada sending 2 teams to Kinross International

The Kinross International Invitational will take place October 21-23rd. Teams from Canada (2) Great Britain,  Scotland (2) England, Wales, Norway, Russia and Switzerland  will compete in 2 groups with the final set for 3.15pm local time next Thursday.

The 5 member Team Canada squad (Neighbour, Austgarden, Forrest, Gaudet and Cormack) will be joined by Jim Armstrong, Chris Sobkowicz and Bruno Yizek.

Canada are hoping during the trip to have the WCF's eligibility assessor declare Armstrong eligible for WCF (and therefore Paralympics) competition, presumably on the grounds that though he does not presently use a wheelchair for his daily mobility, his condition is deteriorating and he is only able to curl from a wheelchair.

The event brochure states that the "competition will follow WCF rules" so it is unclear what will happen is the assessor's opinion does not go Canada's way.

Grant money for equipment and clothing?

The Hamilton Advertiser notes that the Lloyds TSB Foundation For Scotland has made grant for equipment and clothing to an (unspecified) wheelchair curling club.

While it is becoming more common for clubs to seek financial assistance for capital expenditure on access improvements, individual curlers should remember that there is often local money available for the asking for team jackets, embroidery and other expenses. Make an appeal in your local paper, make a brochure, print some photos, and show some initiative to get your team or club properly financed. Write to for information on how to go about getting sponsorship.

Ottawa's Capital Wheelchair CC's season starts today

Ice is available to wheelchair curlers at the RA Curling Club from 3 to 5 pm each Saturday. All wheelchair users are welcome. Contact Bruce Cameron for more information. An Ottawa team will be traveling to Utica NY to challenge Team USA and the Scots at the USA Open December 5-7.

Lockerbie curlers can now buy their own beer

The South of Scotland ice rink at Lockerbie, home of the Lockerbie Wheelchair Curling Club, has just installed an elevator (lift) so wheelchair users can get to  the bar. Improvements to the five sheet club were paid in part by a grant from SportScotland.

With curling's reputation as a social sport, access to the bars and viewing areas may be the boost that wheelchair curling needs as it attempts to appeal to new players. [read full story with photos]

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Two slots still open for 2009 USA Open, Dec 5-7, Utica NY

Six teams have signed up so far for the international bonspiel in Utica NY from December 5-7. Two British teams will compete against two USA teams and teams from Ottawa and Bradford in a round robin format. Registration is still open, details from Marc DePerno.

Team Canada will not be appearing as they are committed to the Cathy Kerr bonspiel in Ottawa the weekend before and to an international bonspiel that starts in Vancouver on December 9th. Given the paucity of opportunities to compete against world class opposition during the season, it is unfortunate that organizers of each event were unable to coordinate the calendar to allow Team Canada to compete in Utica.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Nova Scotia gearing up for big season

The Lakeshore CC in Lower Sackville NS will be host for the 2009 Nationals. Their recreational program begins this evening (October 6th) at 6.15pm and continue throughout the season.

Newcomers are very welcome and the first night's ice time is free. The group is hoping that more females will join the group as wheelchair curling is a mixed gender sport. For those experienced wheelchair curlers there is a stick curling league on Wednesday evening that is more competitive. For information contact Laughie Rutt at 902-864-2737.

Saskatchewan committed to field team at 2009 Nationals

The Saskatchewan Curling Association is committed to sending a team to the March 2009 Nationals in Nova Scotia, and will hold a provincial selection camp on January 24 at the Callie CC in Regina.

The Callie is also hosting reparation sessions and league play. On Mondays starting October 20th and running through March there will be instructional time and mini-games. Sign up costs $100. Contact Bob Capp (306-761-1832) or the club directly.

Those interested in playing in regular leagues have that option if they can form their own team, or if interested in getting on a team that will play Wednesday evenings they should contact the Callie Club (306-525-8171). League fees are $335 plus tax and includes access to the Monday sessions.

There will be a one day workshop for players and coaches  on Saturday November 1st, run by Jim Armstrong and Whitney Warren, both members of the National Team Program. Contact the Saskatchewan Curling Association for more information.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Volunteers needed for Kinross (Scotland) Invitational

Kinross will be hosting a  10 team international spiel October 21-23 and the Curling Today blog notes that on-ice volunteers are needed. Two Canadian teams will be competing against Team GB, Russia, Norway, Switzerland, England, Wales and 2 domestic teams. Contact Ena Stevenson if you are able to help.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

San Francisco bay area seeking help for wheelchair curling

The San Francisco Bay Area CC is looking for volunteers to assist at their forthcoming wheelchair curling clinics in San Jose: October 14 and October 28 from 10am to noon. Contact Brian at for details.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

London (Ontario) Calling - any wheelchair curlers?

Coach Ernie Comerford, who established the wheelchair curling program in Alberta, is now living in London Ontario and is hoping to re-establish wheelchair curling there.  Contact him if you want to play or help out.

You can read about his approach to coaching and download his drills HERE.

USA clinics in Laurel MD and Cape Cod MA

The USA wheelchair curling program has two clinics coming up; October 15th at the Potomac CC in Laurel MD (outside Baltimore) and October 23rd at the Cape Cod CC in Falmouth MA.

BC Provincial Championships January 17-18, 2009

Vernon will host the first ever BC Provincial Championships. Selection for Team BC had previously been the responsibility of a CurlBC coach, and CurlBC will be appointing a coach and alternate to accompany the winning team to the Nationals in Nova Scotia.

Deadline for applications to be received by the CurlBC office is December 22nd and participation will be limited to 8 mixed gender teams. In the unlikely event that more than 8 teams apply, there will be a playdown. Contact Heather Beatty for more information.

Sonja Gaudet is trying to arrange accessible accommodation, Contact her for information.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

WCF's Kate Caithness interviewed after Beijing Paralympics

photo courtesy CurlingToday blog
The Brechin Advertiser, despite confusing Special and Para-Olympics (sic) with the Beijing Paralympics, has an interview with Kate Caithness, WCF vice-president and the most influential person in international wheelchair curling. [read article]

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Norway pick up where they left off with win in Denmark

Norway won the season's opening international event, beating out host Denmark in a five team field. The Czech Republic, Germany and Scotland also competed.

With the cancellation of the Norwegian Open because of construction delays, Team Canada will make their first international appearance at the Kinross Invitational in Scotland, October 21-23.

The five members of Team Canada 2008 (Darryl Neighbour, Gerry Austgarden, Ina Forrest, Sonja Gaudet and Gary Cormack - all from BC) will be joined by Alberta's Bruno Yizak, Manitoba's Chris Sobkowicz and ex-Brier BC skip Jim Armstrong.

Canada is still hopeful that the WCF will change their mind and decide Armstrong is eligible for the Worlds and the Paralympics. He will have his status reviewed by an WCF eligibility assessor during the Scotland trip.

Friday, September 12, 2008

USA skip Perez profiled as keynote speaker at Syracuse

Team USA skip Augusto "Goose" Perez has been invited to be the keynote speaker at Syracuse University's kickoff to National Hispanic Heritage Month.

In a profile at, Rita Paniagua, executive director of the Spanish Action League, said: "His story shows a lot of courage and definitely, he is a very focused individual in terms of reaching his goal," she said. "He has a great message for our children, no matter what life gives you, you keep moving." [read full profile

(Team USA lead Jacquie Kapinowski has her own website.)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Team USA return from Lake Placid

Team USA and the US High Performance squad have just completed their first visit to the U.S. National Olympic Training Centre at Lake Placid, NY. Coach Steve Brown told WCAX-tv reporter Jack LaDuke, "We like to fine tune their technical skills and find out the best place to put their stick and get the power they need and feel and touch and do a lot of off-ice strategy sessions."read full report

Team Canada athletes released to play in Provincials

The five BC athletes on Team Canada 2008 can compete in the 2009 provincial playdowns - with one proviso: no more than two members on any one team. This avoids any embarrassment were they to all play for a team that did not qualify for, or win the national title.

British Columbia's laudable decision to scrap selection camps in favour of a provincial  playdown is running up against a harsh fact plaguing all provincial programmes - too few female participants. Going into its sixth season, BC has just five women with any playing experience, and two of those are Team Canada members.

WCF rules define wheelchair curling as a mixed gender sport. This is of little consequence to the rest of the world who (apart from Scotland) have just enough participants to qualify for the Paralympics. In Canada, with potentially thousands of participants at hundreds of clubs, ambitious curling teams must include 25% women, even though women comprise far less than 25% of the potential athlete pool.

If the idea is establish curling in Canada as the primary winter recreation for wheelchair users, there should no impediment to team formation. As present CCA policy precludes the national champions from representing Canada in WCF events, then it shouldn't matter if provincial teams are mixed gender or not.

If on the other hand, the idea is to encourage women to play a mixed gender sport, then present athletes, coaches and provincial bodies need to do a far better job at outreach if overall growth is not to be stymied by a lack of women.

Experience shows at the Osoyoos 2-on-2

Six pairs competed in this B.C. event, sponsored for a second year by Olsen. Four members of Team Canada competed, with Darryl Neighbour and Gary Cormack beating the round robin winners, Gerry Austgarden ad Sonja Gaudet, in the final.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Pre-season news from British Columbia

The International Curling Club, in the border town of Osoyoos in the Okanagan valley is hosting the 2nd Annual 2 on 2 bonspiel this weekend (click for details).

Abbotsford CC hopes to start a new league on Monday evenings open to wheelchair users plus family and friends. There will be a 'give-it-a-go" session on October 6th at 7.30pm, which will be followed by 4 session "learn to curl from a wheelchair" program. Contact the club (604-859-9244) for more details.

On the Island, Quesnel is hosting a "Have-a-go" day on October 25th. Contact Dave Plante at the Quesnel Curling Club:

Wheelchair curlers will again be active in Kelowna and Vernon, Prince George and at Marpole and Richmond on the Lower Mainland, as well as the Juan de Fuca centre near Victoria. BC are hoping that enough teams will form to allow a playdown for the right to represent the province at the 2009 Nationals next March near Halifax NS.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

International season starts in Denmark

Six national squads will be competing at the 2008 Danish International Wheelchair curling Cup this weekend in Taarnby, Denmark. The  Curling Today blog reports Scotland are taking four of their six member national squad; Michael McCreadie, Angie Malone, Jim Sellar and Rosemary Lenton making the trip. They will compete in a round robin against teams from Germany, Czech Republic, Norway, Russia and Denmark.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Norwegian Open cancelled

The Norwegian Open that was to be held in the new Halden Curling Centre in October has been cancelled due to construction delays. Last year's event was won by the Canadian squad that went on to represent Team Canada at the 2008 World Championship.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Brits looking beyond 2010 for high performance squad

If you are committed to individual selection for the national team, how do you keep your top athletes motivated when you  choose the team 2 years before a major competition? If you are in charge of British curling you offer those who didn't make the cut a clear and public path to future selection.

Experienced curlers are invited to apply for invitations to up to 5 British ranking events where individual assessments of accuracy and weight control will be made using cameras and laser timers. Perth, Braehead, Ross and Aberdeen will host the assessments between this October and March of next year.

The application deadline is September 30th, and the top 14 curlers will form a high performance developmental squad, and qualify for financial support, that will be looking to 2014 and beyond. There's no mention of whether exceptions might be made for curlers of proven ability unable to participate in at least 3 of the 5 assessments.

Read more at Bob Cowan's Curling Today blog and the RCCC website.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

USA top ten to train at Lake Placid Olympic Training Centre

Team USA's ten member high performance athlete pool will be training at the National Olympic Training Centre in Lake Placid NY the first weekend in September. The group includes the five who won Bronze at the 2008 Worlds, plus Patrick McDonald, Roy Heathcoat, Tammy Delano, Danell Libby and Ellie O'Neill.

The USA trials will again be held in Utica the weekend of November 11-14.

Manitobans compete against 3 all-time greats

photo courtesy

Chris Sobkowicz led his Manitoba champions against Kerry Burtnyk, Jeff Stoughton and Vic Peters in an awareness and fundraising matchup on arena style ice at the Monsanto Sliding In Summer Bonspiel in Warren, MB.

"Our goal is to play as many games as possible against able-bodied teams, provide awareness to the curling public, and of course, become better curlers," says Sobkowicz.

Read reports from and the Winnipeg Sun.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Who should be eligible to curl from a wheelchair?

This deceptively simple question proved controversial, at least in Canada, during the 2007/8 season. Jim Armstrong, a 6-time Brier competitor whose curling career ended through injury, was declared eligible for wheelchair curling by a Canadian sports classifier perhaps more familiar with wheelchair basketball.

Opposition to that decision appeared to surprise the CCA, and ended in a rebuke by the World Curling Federation, who felt their eligibility rules requiring wheelchair use for daily mobility, clearly disqualified the ambulant Armstrong. Although presently ineligible for international competition, Armstrong was chosen by CurlBC coach Melissa Soligo to skip the BC team that went on to win the 2008 Canadian National Championships.

This summer the CCA has adopted several major WCF rules of competition changes, and has solicited advice on a definition of athlete eligibility that strikes a balance between inclusion and maintaining the integrity of the sport.

National champions in wheelchair curling (unlike regular curling) do not become Team Canada so WCF eligibility rules need not apply (although different eligibility rules would be an additional impediment to equal treatment in the future.)

Different wheelchair sports adopt different procedures, but a general principle is to provide opportunity for participation that would be impossible without a wheelchair. Is wheelchair curling merely curling from a wheelchair, or should it be limited to those reliant on a wheelchair, and if so, to what degree? And where does the increasingly popular stick curling format come in?

Where is the optimal eligibility setting on the continuum between "anyone sitting in a wheelchair" and "person requiring a wheelchair for daily mobility"? The former eliminates the temptation to stretch the rules, while possibly discouraging those who after all are the target audience - wheelchair users. The latter excludes those denied the opportunity to participate in organised curling by virtue of their physical circumstances, but who are not technically "wheelchair-based."

I would exclude those ambulant enough to participate in stick curling, but include those using braces and crutches, or who have an unsteady gait necessitating a wheelchair on-ice, but who chose not to use a wheelchair in their daily lives.

These distinctions only matter when deciding criteria for the Canadian National Championships. Play at local and club level can and should answer to the desires of those willing to be involved. For a national championship there has to be clear eligibility rules to ensure fairness.

Here then is my suggestion for eligibility to play in the Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championships:

To be eligible to play in competitions leading to participation in the Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championships, a player must be restricted in their mobility such that they are unable to deliver a curling stone without the use of a wheelchair.

Interpretation: Although wheelchair curling is intended to be played by people who use wheelchairs for their daily mobility, it should not exclude those unable to participate in stick curling because they are unable to safely deliver a rock while standing.

What do you think? You can contribute to a discussion on this topic by adding a comment to this entry at the Wheelchair Curling Blog.