Friday, July 31, 2009

Carleen Armstrong on wheelchair curling: "It's inspiring."

Carleen Armstrong - 3rd from left, with daughters Jayme and Jody
During the 2009 World Championships I was able to procure access to Team Canada for a group UBC journalism students. The video of their visit is online HERE. It includes a comment from Carleen Armstrong, whose support for her husband and for the sport has been acknowledged in every conversation I have had with Jim.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kenora to host 2010 N. Ontario Provincials

Wayne Ficek, Mark Wherrett, Chester Draper,
Cindy Hoffstrom, Denise Miault, Coach Tom Wherrett
2009 N. Ontario champs
photo Ian Readey

Wayne Ficek's Kenora/Dryden team surprised rivals Thunder Bay by winning last year's Northern Ontario Provincial Championship. Next season they will get to defend their title on home ice (date to be determined.)

Skip Wayne Ficek said he and 3rd Mark Wherrett welcome the opportunity to host, acknowledging they were fortunate to score 5 against the favoured host Thunder Bay team at the 2009 Provincials.

"I hope we can put on an event as successful as last year," he said. "Thunder Bay coach Dave Kawahara showed class and was sensitive to the needs of the players. I hope with corporate sponsorship Kenora can host an event that is even more competitive and exciting.

"We hope to have a minimum of 4 teams and maybe more. Anyone interested in information can email me at"

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

OCA reverse playdown exclusion ruling

The Ontario Curling Association, at their Annual General Meeting June 30th, reversed a controversial decision limiting the number of wheelchair teams eligible to compete in a provincial championship to half of other curling categories. The new policy will be to allow up to eight teams to compete before reducing entries via zone playdowns. The OCA also changed the Championship format: "The Dominion Wheelchair Provincial Championship will now accommodate up to eight (8) teams with the top three teams qualifying for the playoffs after round robin play."

Last season Ottawa wheelchair curlers, who had developed their program so that they had two competitive teams, were forced into a zone playoff as only four teams, one from each Ontario zone rather than the usual two, were permitted into the provincial championship.

London ON coach Ernie Comerford, who along with Ottawa skip Bruce Cameron had raised objections to last season's arrangements said: " As a major promoter of the game in Ontario and elsewhere, I am pleased that additional teams in Ontario will have the opportunity to participate and gain valuable experience."

Jim Armstrong update

Here is what Jim had to say this morning about his fitness and his plans: He is as certain as it is possible to be this far out, that whether or not he has surgery he will be able to compete in the Paralympics. The timing of any surgery depends both on the availability of a hospital slot and the health status of a close family member who is facing serious illness and who is presently in hospital. Because of that illness, Jim will not be attending the Edmonton training camp scheduled for later this week.

On a related note, I should reiterate that Chris Daw's move to BC is entirely job related and has nothing to do with any concerns about Armstrong's status.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Chris Daw to be GM of Vancouver Curling Club

Chris Daw, now retired from high-performance competition, will be moving to Vancouver later this month with his family (wife Morgan, and sons Kyle, Shane and TJ from an earlier marriage) to take up the position of General Manager at the Vancouver Curling Club. [read announcement HERE]

The club is about to begin its 60th year at its current location, and will be moving into the Hillcrest Olympic facility when it is retrofitted in summer 2011. The club will celebrate its centenary in 2012.

Chris and Morgan are expecting their first child early next March.

Canadian wheelchair curling boosted by Bentall

Jim Armstrong at Willowbrook Shopping Centre - Canada Day 2009
flanked by sponsor Bentall employees Leah Neale and Rosavel Scott

Team Canada skip Jim Armstrong spent some time on Canada Day (July 1st) signing autographs as part of Bentall's plan to invite the public to "Meet A Paralympic Athlete."

Jim wrote: "Bentall manages many shopping malls across Canada and have partnered with CPC to fund raise and raise our profile. I had the opportunity of participating in the Canada Day Event at Willowbrook Shopping Centre in Langley. They can't do enough, and it will be a longstanding relationship. Kudos to Bentall."

Bentall have a website associated with this effort at, where they are giving away a trip for two to the Paralympics.

Watch out Norway - here I come!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Will injury dash Canada's hopes for repeat Paralympics gold?

Team Canada skip Jim Armstrong confirmed today that he has a shoulder injury that will require surgery.

"I have a muscle tear in my left (non-throwing) shoulder that has been bothering me since before the World Championships," he said today. "The prognosis for a full recovery is good, but the surgeons are suggesting that rehab may take three to six months."

Jim is a large man and fairly new to using a wheelchair. It is easy to under estimate how much strain wheeling around, places on shoulders he described as "already beaten up by years of sweeping." Leaving aside issues of physical discomfort, the non throwing arm is important for a stable delivery motion, as well as the ability to manipulate the chair and thus maintain fitness.

"The long rehab is a concern," Jim said, "but if I can get the surgery in a couple of weeks I plan to go ahead with it. Otherwise I'll wait until after the Paralympics."

While the Team Canada squad is comprised of very capable individual curlers, Armstrong's leadership at skip was the decisive factor in Canada's first World Championship last March. It is also the cornerstone of Canada's hopes for repeating their Torino gold medal success at the Vancouver Paralympics in 2010. Even were he not fit enough to justify throwing last rocks, I suspect Armstrong's expertise in strategy, ice reading and team management would mean he'd have to be unable to get his rocks down the ice before he lost his place on the team.

The injury does raise the question of who would replace him were he unable to compete, and what the coaching staff have done to prepare for that eventuality. And what effect will a Jim at less than 100% have on the rest of the team?