Friday, September 30, 2011

Team Canada devlopment camp begins in Richmond BC

Twenty six wheelchair users and a dozen coaches will gather this weekend at the Richmond CC in British Columbia, the pay-off to last season's promise that the regional development camps held across the country would lead to opportunities to connect with the present Team Canada squad and their coaches. Attendees will have an opportunity to learn what it takes to win at the international level, and use those insights to strengthen their provincial programmes.

It's easy to underestimate just how much work, and how many hours go into developing the skills that underpin winning performance, hours that for the national squad are eased by financial support, and guided by coaching staff with the resources to analyse and adjust performance. While Canada is blessed with enormous coaching experience across the country, specific experience in wheelchair curling is very limited outside of the national program, and the efforts of a handful of provincially based coaches volunteering their time.

So the weekend will be an opportunity to spread the word about good practices and proven methods that can improve standards nationally. It will also probably demonstrate how wide is the gap both in execution and ambition between those athletes with access to expert coaching and training and the resources to devote significant hours each week to their sport, and those making their own way.

Expert coaching can change that equation, especially in the area of technique, on which all else rests, and which even experienced able-bodied coaches will find alien. A stable repeatable delivery is essential to success, and while individuals will differ in their throwing motions, delivery positions, and stick configurations depending on their physique, an educated eye can help maintain the consistency that eventually allows for measured change of force, and the ability to judge distance.

Anyone disappointed at not receiving an invite to Richmond can console themselves knowing that with a settled squad holding both Paralympic and World titles and unlikely to voluntarily give up carding system booty, the opportunity to break into the squad before 2014, baring accident, illness or even more dramatic legal imbroglios than a felony drug distribution conviction, remains slim to none. The true worth of the weekend will be whether teams competing in Thunder Bay next March arrive better prepared to bridge the gap between the National Champions, and the chosen.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Quebec's Johanne Daley is this week's CCA featured athlete

 Johanne Daley playing lead for  Quebec at 2011 Nationals

Johanne Daley, who brought a wealth of high performance sport experience to her debut on curling ice in 2008, is this week's featured ahlete on the CCA website. Discover what rule she'd change, and how hard she can throw a takeout and much more in Jean Mills' profile HERE.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wheelchair curling in the Yukon?

The Yukon Curling Association, in a news release reported by the Whitehorse Daily Star, suggests they are interested in starting wheelchair curling in the territory. There were no details given for locations, or what if any clubs might be wheelchair accessible, but Yukon wheelchair users interested in participating should contact the YCA office at 867-668-7121 or by e-mail at

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Calgary change of venue and Edmonton's ice is in

Team Yizek practicing at the Calgary CC this month
[photo - Andy Jones]

The Ogden Legion CC, host for seven extremely successful years to Calgary's wheelchair curlers, succumbed to financial pressures and closed its doors this summer, forcing the wheelchair curling program to relocate to the Garrison Curling Club.

Regular weekly Sunday evening sessions resume at 4.45pm, commencing October 16th.

The ice is in at the Jasper Place CC, site of last year's Nationals and also host of this season's Provincial Championship January 20-22, 2012. A tweet from Cathy, the club manager (@1CathyC) suggested a wheelchair curling clinic is planned for the October 1st weekend. Contact her for more information.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Invitation to 6th Open Czech Tournament 2011

The 6th Prague Open will be held in the Czech Republic from November 25th to November 27th at the Prague curling hall.

Entry forms and hotel information are available HERE and the booking deadline is October 24. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ohioans offered an opportunity to learn to curl

Columbus (Ohio) Curling Club is holding another learn to curl session on Sunday October 2nd from 9 - noon. The session is designed introduce wheelchair athletes to the sport of curling, as well as for able-bodied curlers interested in learning to teach wheelchair curling.

Cost is $10 per participant and veterans are free. Visit the club's website for more information and to sign up.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

McCreadie steers Scotland II to season opening win in Denmark

 Scotland II winners of the 5th Danish Open
Gregor Ewan, Ian Donaldson, Gill Keith, Jim Gault and Michael McCreadie
[photo Aileen Neilson via Bob Cowan's blog]
The 5th Annual Danish Open in TĂ„rnby September 9-11 attracted a full complement of ten teams to open the 2011/2012 competitive curling season. Scotland, Russia and Norway each sent two teams, and Germany, Finland, Czech Republic and Denmark also competed.

Scotland II and the Czechs topped their groups (which were scored on more than won/loss records) with the Scots running our easy winners in the crossover gold medal game and Russia I taking 3rd. Gregor Ewan moved from Scotland I for the final two games replacing an injured Jim Gault, and did a fine job of calming any rookie nerves from Ian Donaldson and Gill Keith, according to coach Tony Zummack.

Final Standings - teams played a final crossover game between the two pools.
GB 2  beat Czech Republic for  Gold
Russia 1 beat Norway I for  Bronze
Russia 2 beat Finland for 5th  
GB 1 beat  Denmark  for 7th 
Germany beat Norway 2 for 9th

The Scots were coming from an intensive two week camp that straddled the end of August, one of several innovations their full-time coach has introduced this season. As reported by Bob Cowan, the wheelchair curlers attended as part of the newly integrated Royal Club/British Curling World Class Performance Programme, sharing ice and classroom time.

Gregor Ewan practicing his delivery line
[photo courtesy Bob Cowan's blog]
"It was a really good camp," said Zummack, and after eight days we had the opportunity to bring in some other competitive wheelchair curlers for a day, and then finish with a well-attended "give-it-a-go" session for wheelchair users and people interested in coaching, that several senior players stayed around for.

"We're spending a lot of time on the ice in supervised practice," he said, possible with a full-time national wheelchair coach. "From now on the squad of eight will be spending at least two 4-hour practice sessions a week, some where they will come to me, and some where I will travel to them. This hasn't been done in Scotland before, and we'll see how it goes this season, then evaluate.

"Six of the squad are using a parallel delivery and seven are using the (Eales) off-side brace, but the most important thing is they use a delivery that fits their body and with which they feel comfortable." It also appears they have dropped the long-range shooting style favoured by the previous regime.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Manitoba's Dennis Thiessen featured on CCA website

Team Manitoba 3rd Dennis Thiessen is the featured athlete on the newly revamped CCA website.

2011, after some local controversy over team formation, was a big year for Dennis and his teammates when, as Team Manitoba, they converted a string of three bronze medals into gold at the national championships in Edmonton. That win earned them an invitation to the end of September Team Canada Development/Evaluation camp in Richmond BC.

Find out who Dennis would invite to dinner, and what his favourite website is, by reading Jean Mills' profile HERE.

Monday, September 19, 2011

News from Team Canada

There are six Canadian athletes currently receiving financial support through the national carding system; the five who won gold at last year's World Championships in Prague, plus Manitoban Chris Sobkowicz, skip of the current national champions, who receives a smaller "development" grant.

The six all participated in the optional monthly training camps at Edmonton's Saville Centre over the summer, and will be joined by 20 invitees and 9 coaches at a Development/Evaluation Camp that will be held in Richmond BC from September 30-October 2.

This camp, which had initially been proposed for the end of last season, is a follow-on from the series of regional camps held by national team staff and athletes throughout last season. Invitees to Richmond were chosen in part on impressions gained at those camps, as well as performance at observed competitions, and recommendations from regional coaches.

With the present Team Canada appearing as both Paralympic and World Champions, the camp is probably less about breaking into the national team than an opportunity for athletes and coaches to familiarise themselves with national training procedures that may be carried back into and improve regional programs.

A full list of Richmond invitees can be seen at the end of this post.

An eight person TC squad will travel to Norway (October 14-16) and then with just a day's turnaround, compete at the Kinross event in Scotland (October 18-20). Albertans Jack Smart and Anne Hibberd will join the squad for those two events. In Norway the team lineups will be flexible, but the world champion team is expected to play together in Scotland.

Canada will also field two teams at the Richmond International (November 2-5) though personnel may change.

A further but smaller development camp is planned for later in the season.

Expected to attend the Richmond camp

National Team coaches Laura Farres, Joe Rea, Wendy Morgan, Gerry Peckham

National squad members Jim Armstrong, Darryl Neighbour, Ina Forrest, Sonja Gaudet, Bruno Yizek, Chris Sobkowicz

National Champions Manitoba coach Rob Lamb, with Dennis Thiessen, George Horning, Don Kalinsky, Melissa Lecuyer

BC coach Karen Watson with Frank Labounty and Alison Duddy

Alberta coach Andy Jones with Jack Smart and Anne Hibberd

Saskatchewan coach  Lorraine Arguin with Darwin Bender and Gil Dash

N. Ontario coach Dave Kawahara with Carl Levesque

Ontario coach Carl Rennick with Collinda Joseph, Chris Rees, Mike Munro and Mark Ideson

Quebec coaches Germaine Tremblay/Alan Smith with Benoit Lessard
and Carl Marquis

Atlantic region coach LeslieAnn Walsh with Joanne McDonald, Darlene Jackman and Trendal Hubley- Bolivar