Thursday, December 16, 2010

Frank Duffy dead at 51: "the first wheelchair curling superstar"

Frank Duffy - 1959-2010
[photo courtest Bob Cown's blog]

I received some very sad news this morning. Frank Duffy died suddenly.

"In my eyes he was the 1st wheelchair 'superstar'  I will miss him an awful lot," Michael McCreadie wrote in an email.

Frank was born in 1959 and was first introduced to the sport of curling at age 12 on a frozen pond in Falkland in Fife. When he was 35, a 12 foot fall from a ladder left him with an L1 spinal cord injury and life in a wheelchair.

He had been a skilled curler before his injury and was involved in Scottish wheelchair curling from the beginning, skipping Scotland to two World Championship titles in 2004 and 2005 followed by a silver medal at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games.

He also won many domestic championships and Sportsmanship Awards, coached at WCF camps, and following his retirement from international curling in 2006, chaired the Scottish Wheelchair Curling Association (2006-2008) and was a Director for British Curling from 2007-2010.

I met Frank at the Kelowna Cashspiel in 2005, which he won. He was a gentleman, soft-spoken but disciplined. I had, as an event organizer, staked out some wheelchair accessible refreshment venues, but Frank disapproved. He told me the game (back then) was one of draws and taps. Ironic that the iconic image of his career will be his look of anguish as he sees his Torino gold medal take-out shot miss by millimeters.

Angie Malone comforts her skip, Frank Duffy, after the last shot in Torino, 2006

Frank was someone who put into the sport more than he took out, working not just when the cameras and note-pads were out, but serving to develop and direct the sport he loved.

He will be missed.

9 comments:

Chris Daw said...

It is with GREAT SADNESS, that I heard of Franks death this morning.

He was a true friend, master curler and great champion of the sport!

I grew from knowing him and have a emptiness now without him.

Jens J├Ąger said...

Im very shocked about this sad message. Frank Duffy was my idol when i am start to play curling in 2003. This message hits the middle of my hearth. I never forget this great gentleman and great sportsman.

Jens from Germany

ilrja said...

Duffe was for me - my very own personal assistant, he told me many things when we played. He helped me with the mental and technical game of curling. I can not believe it and is very very sad.
When he stopped playing curling, it was a loss, he was the world's best wheelchair curling player. And now this, I cry and will for a long time thinking about him when I play curling. I would think "remember what Duffy said. "
Rosita - Denmark

Jalle Jungnell said...

In Sweden we are all, still in shock after we got the message yeasterday of his death.

Franks apperence on the curling sceene 2003, set a new standard, from which level the game would be played for the future.
In curling Frank will be rememberd as one of the key persons that has helped our sport to become so great. He is already historical. He was already missed in curling, and will be even more so now.

It is heartbreaking that his life has ended far to soon. Our condolences and thoughts are with his family and friends.

Ken Gregory said...

I too am shocked by this news of Frank Duffy's passing. I had the pleasure of competing against him back in 2005 in London Ontario. He will always be remembered as a great sportsman.

Michael McCreadie said...

Frank was probably one of the great curlers wheelchair curling has produced. He could always produce a shot which turned a game. I recall many a time when he pulled Scotland/GB out of trouble. It was he who steered Scotland to 17 wins in succession in the 2004/5 period a record that will be difficult to equal. When he retired from wheelchair curling he dedicated his time to furthering the sport. It was the athletes he championed - it was their sport he would always say.
You only have to read the tributes to him from other wheelchair curlers globally which shows the impact he had.

Goose said...

I had the pleasure to see him play back in Torino. That was the first time i played against other wheelchair teams. Even thou i sit that game because of rotations....i think it was the best i did since i learn a lot from him and i try to use him as an example to get better at the game i love.
For the short period i knew him he was delightful with peolpe....
He will be missed..... very sad the news and circunstances of his death... rest in peace
Goose

Kenneth said...

One of the best wheelchaircurlers have left the world in a sad way.

I will think of Frank as the man who could play the best stone, make the best game, and always polite even when he won ;-))

Kenneth

Andrea Tabanelli said...

I only just learned this sad news.
Definitely my biggest idol and master of curling.
Several times I was inspired to his game simple and effective.
Frank. You'll always be in my thoughts every time I play at curling.

Hello from all over Italy in the wheelchair curling

Andrea Tabanelli