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.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Mark your calendar for 4pm March 20th, 2010

The  Vancouver Sun reports that's when the wheelchair curling gold medal game in the newly built facility at Hillcrest Park, will begin.

Friday, August 1, 2008

CurlBC abandons selection camps for playdowns

In another sign of the maturing of the sport, CurlBC has just announced their April 24th decision to abandon selection camps in favour of a playdown to choose who will represent the province at the 2009 Canadian National Championships in Halifax NS.

From an enthusiastic start in 2003, and despite success at the National Championships with a selected team, participation in wheelchair curling in BC has stagnated over the past 5 years, culminating in a humiliating withdrawal from the 2008 BC Winter Games because of lack of athletes. It is to be seen whether finally rewarding team formation will be the catalyst for renewed enthusiasm.

The change is designated a "one year pilot project" but it is unclear what criteria will be used to determine its success. BC already has the best record of any provincial team at the Canadian Nationals, having won the past two years, and coming second to Team Canada when the (selection based) national team competed the previous three years. If growth in participation is the criterion, then it may take more than a single year to undo the disincentives to team formation of the past five.

The CurlBC wheelchair curling committee, whose members are listed on the CurlBC website, invite suggestions for rules of competition.