Hosts Team Finland
photo - Kisakallio
The World Wheelchair Curling Qualifying Tournament begins Sunday November 7th at the Kisakallio Sports Institute in Lohja, Finland. Ten teams will compete: China, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia and Switzerland.
They will play a full round robin, the top four teams entering a Page playoff on Friday November 12. The top two finishers join the top eight from the 2009 World Championships, and will compete in at the Worlds in Prague, February 21-March 3, 2011 for Sochi Paralympics qualifying points.
Italy and Japan both played at the Vancouver Paralympics, on the basis of prior World Championship performances. Andrea Tabanelli's Italy (5-5) placed 5th in Vancouver but though they also tied for 5th at the 2009 Worlds, they lost out after a series of multiple tie-break games, falling to 9th and thus forced to requalify. They bring their Vancouver team to Finland.
Japan were the hard luck team of the 2008 Worlds, when they were relegated by a couple of centimetres on a pre-event draw to the button tie-breaker. The unfairness of their fate led to a tie-break rule change. This year's Qualifying will be Japan's second attempt to regain their status as a World Championship team.
Japan's skip in Vancouver, Yogi Nakajima is listed as alternate for Finland, with his 3rd Katsuo Ichikawa, moving up to skip. Takashi Hidai, at 75 the oldest Paralympian, did not make the trip. Japan is the only team slated to start two women, copying Canada's all-female front end.
Switzerland's very experienced skip, Manfred Bollinger, will have a new 2nd, Hieronymus Liechtenham. Daniel Meyer replaces Anton Kehrli at lead. Four teams list two female members (SLO, RUS, JAP, FIN). Denmark and France travel with just four person teams.
China bring in a new female at 2nd, Guanqin Xu, the only change from the team that befuddled Canada during round robin play at the 2009 Worlds.
Denmark welcome back Per Christensen as coach. Per was in charge of Norway at the Vancouver Paralympics, but moved back to his home team when coach Thoralf Hognestad returned to his old job.
Russia arrived in Lohja at the end of October and have been practicing with their neighbour and host Finland. They are hoping to regain World Championship status after being relegated with Japan at the 2008 Worlds, though coach Vladimir Shevchenko told the WCF media he "believes that the level in this year's tournament will be extremely high and making it to the top two will be very challenging."
Finland began wheelchair curling in 2007 and have never made it to a Worlds, though they did have an upset win over Team Canada in Prague last November.
France, Latvia and Slovakia round out the field.
Tournament organizers plan live webcast coverage of games on Sheet B. The first game on Sheet B is China vs. Japan, starting 4pm local time on Sunday November 7.
The draw and game schedule can be found HERE and other event information can be found HERE.
Team Finland's photo was taken on the railway square in the center of Helsinki, where there is outdoor ice every winter for skating, with one sheet of curling ice at the side.
You can see results from all major championships from 2006 by using the links on the events page at wheelchaircurling.com