Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Big win for wheelchair curlers at WCF meeting

The World Curling Federation's semi-annual meetings have been held in Cortina this week, during the Men's World Championships. There were several important issues discussed that directly affect wheelchair users, and one indirect decision that may be just as influential in the long term.

First, the current ban on power wheelchairs has been lifted. As has been discussed on this blog, the ban served no equitable purpose. Power wheelchairs proffered no advantage to the athlete and imposed no burden on the ice. Removing the ban, in the absence of evidence that it served an explicable purpose, was overdue.

I do not have any details beyond the announcement, but I do know that the CCA was fully supportive of a lifting of the ban. I also know that the British team had been asked their opinion, and also supported allowing the use of power chairs in WCF competition.

While this decision is unlikely to mark an immediate influx of power chair users, it will have an impact on decisions made by national coaches. In my pre-Paralympic discussion with Team Canada coach Joe Rea he mentioned that the ban at WCF events influenced his decision about whether to work with power chair users at the national level.

Some time ago Great Britain skip Michael McCreadie circulated a discussion paper suggesting that rules changes needed to be made to ensure that a wider range of level of disability is represented in national teams. The power chair decision may indicate that his arguments are being heard.

The most dramatic news from Cortina was that sitting President Canadian Les Harrison has been deposed by his vice-President Kate Caithness of Scotland. While Les Harrison was cordial when I spoke to him last year, he referred all discussion of wheelchair curling to Kate Caithness.

There was also a detailed revision of eligibility rules for wheelchair curling presented at the meeting, but no news has surfaced yet.

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