Monday, February 28, 2011

Return of the old guard: Canada, Scotland and Norway play for Worlds title

Three years ago Canada, Scotland and Norway may have been consensus picks to compete in the playoffs at the World Championships. After two years of struggle Scotland and Norway have re-emerged to challenge Canada at the top of the 2011 Prague World Championship rankings.

Canada played Norway in the 1 vs 2 game, opening with a 3 and never looking back in the 7-4 victory. Norwegian skip Rune Lorentsen was fatalistic after the game, knowing he's been playing all week with a rookie front end.

“The Canadian lead and second were very strong in this game,” he said. “If our lead and second have a good day then we can perhaps match them and hopefully that will be in the final.”

Jim Armstrong watches Rune Lorentsen pondering Canada's 3 in the house

[World Curling Federation/Pavla Vrbova]
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Scotland played qualifiers Russia, a team who had beaten them on the opening day of round robin play, in the page 3 vs 4 game. Scotland held Russia to 1 in the opening end and then took 3 in the second, only to fall behind 4-3 on a couple of single point steals after 5. Singles were taken with hammer for a 5-5 tie through 8 ends, but in the extra, Scotland stole 3 for an 8-5 win and a semi-final game against Norway.

Scots skip Aileen Nielsen hogged her first stone in the extra end, but playeda great hit-and-roll buried with her second. “We are absolutely delighted, the guys played an awesome game,” she said. “The guys set up the extra end perfectly. My first shot wasn’t the best but I made up for that with the second shot.”

Angie Malone, Gregor Ewan and Aileen Nielson watched by Russia's Svetlana Pakhomova

[World Curling Federation/Pavla Vrbova]
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The winner of the morning semi-final game plays Canada in Tuesday afternoon's final. The loser plays Russia for the bronze medal.

At the bottom of the table, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Germany all had 2-7 records so played tie-breakers to decide which team would automatically qualify for the 2012 Worlds in Korea, and which would have to compete in the Qualifying Tournament in Finland next November.

Sweden and the Czechs played first, a game of singles with Sweden gaining a 3-0 lead at the break and holding on for a 4-2 victory, relegating the Czechs.

Czech Radek Musílek congratulates Sweden's Glenn Ikonen
[World Curling Federation/Pavla Vrbova]
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Sweden then played Germany, who had given themselves a chance at avoiding relegation by beating Sweden 7-3 in the final round robin draw. With the scores tied 3-3 at the break, Sweden stole 2 in the 5th only to give up 3 in the 6th. But Germany could not hold on. Sweden took two in the 7th and Germany, down one in the final end, gave up a steal and lost 8-6 and were relegated.


German lead Christiane Steger congratulates her Swedish counterpart Kristina Ulander

[World Curling Federation/Pavla Vrbova]

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A relieved Swedish coach Jalle Jungnell said “if you manage to stay in the group of teams that qualify directly for the World Championships you have got a better chance of qualifying for the Paralympics. But the lesson we have learnt here is for better preparation. We were unprepared.”

On a personal note while I sympathis with Germany and the Czechs, I'm pleased that Jalle, the first wheelchair user to coach at the World level, did not see his team relegated.

Coach Jalle Jungnell rallying his troops

[World Curling Federation/Pavla Vrbova]

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Swedish relief at avoiding relegation

[World Curling Federation/Pavla Vrbova]

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You can see the full schedule, results and tables in our Worlds 2011 section of the wheelchaircurling.com website.

Line scores are available HERE and a large gallery of photos are available HERE

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Team Lessard repeat as Quebec champions

ÉQUIPE LESSARD
En bas : Johanne Daly, Sébastien Boisvert, Carl Marquis, Benoit Lessard
En haut: Marco Berthelot (DG Curling Québec), Germain Tremblay (ent.)

Benoit Lessard brought his Magog CC team to the Victoria CC in Quebec City this weekend to compete in a best of 5 Provincial Championship series against a home side skipped by Jean-François Sylvestre. He added  Sébastien Boisvert to last year's team in place of Denis Grenier, who is now alternate.

C’est en fin de semaine que se déroulait dans la ville de Québec le championnat provincial, où Équipe Lessard rencontrait Équipe Sylvestre dans un trois de cinq afin de déterminer l’équipe représentante en vue des championnats canadiens.   Cette année Benoit Lessard ajoutait à son équipe un nouveau venu comme deuxième soit Sébastien Boisvert qui a prouvé hors de tout doute ses capacités à joindre l’équipe, Denis Grenier devenant le cinquième joueur.   

Lessard had beaten Sylvestre comfortably last year, and quickly established a 7-1 lead at the break in the first game. Sylvestre fought back, taking 2 in the  5th and then posting steals in each of the final 3 ends, but falling just a point short in the 7-6 final score.

L’année dernière l’Équipe Lessard avait nettement dominé le tournoi provincial contre l’Équipe Sylvestre.   En fin de semaine L’Équipe Sylvestre a su répliquer à l’offensive menée par Lessard, en volant un point aux trois derniers bouts et terminer la première ronde avec un pointage de 7-6 en faveur de Lessard.

In the second game, Lessard led 9-1 after 5 and finished more convincingly to win 10-3.

En deuxième ronde, l’Équipe Lessard a mené définitivement la partie en menant 9-1 jusqu’au 5ème bout, pour terminer avec une confortable avance de 10-3.

Lessard started Sunday's game 3 with a two with hammer, then gave up a 3, scored another two with hammer and the stole 4 on the way to a third and decisive victory 9-6.

Dimanche matin, l’Équipe Lessard amorçait la partie avec 2 points et en possession du marteau, puis en perdait trois contre Sylvestre.  Encore en possession du marteau Lessard en remettait avec un autre 2 points puis assommait l’équipe adverse avec un vol de 4 points terminant ainsi la partie avec un pointage de 9-6 sur Sylvestre terminant ainsi la série en trois victoires consécutives.   

Line scores are available at a link on this page.
Pointage accessible sur ce lien.

Équipe Sylvestre
Jean-François Sylvestre (capitaine) Maxime Aubé (3e) Allan Burridge (2e) France Sévigny (1ère)
Raymond White (5e)
  Jacques Palasse (ent.)

Team Lessard will represent Quebec at the Nationals in Edmonton March 20-27.
Équipe Lessard pour une troisième année consécutive,  représentera le Québec lors des championnats canadiens à Edmonton du 20 au 27 mars prochain.

Worlds Day 6 - Canada sweep, join Norway, Russia and Scotland in playoffs

Canada completed their sweep of the round robin matches at the 7th World Wheelchair Curling Championships in Prague, beating Scotland 9-4 in the final draw.

Jim Armstrong braced by Ina Forrest
[World Curling Federation/Roman Suda]
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Skip Jim Armstrong, acknowledging tight early results, told reporters that his team had not played together very often this year and had taken a little while to settle in and get used to the ice, but were feeling increasingly comfortable as the week went on.

“The 9-4 score was not indicative of the game,” he said. “They had last rock and we ran them up and down for a couple of ends and I decided we’d take a cautious risk in end three and see if we could take two and get back in control. The interesting thing is that those first four ends were played exactly as able-bodied curlers would play it and I think that speaks for the calibre of the game today.”

It was Canada's steal of 3 in the 4th end that put paid to Scotland's hopes of appearing in the 1-2 playoff game, given that they lost to China 5-4 in an extra end this morning.

Ewan Gregor braces Scotland's lead Angie Malone
 [World Curling Federation/Roman Suda]
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“Obviously today has not been our best day at the office” said Scottish Skip Aileen Neilson. “But our goal was to get into the business end of the week and we’ve done that. Tomorrow we are going to come out fighting. We know that if we play the way we did with our six (consecutive) wins, there’s absolutely nothing to stop us coming out on top.”

China held their fate in their own hands when they faced fellow qualifiers Russia, who beat Sweden 8-3 this morning, in the final draw. The winner would play on, the loser would have to wait for next year.

Russian lead Lead Svetlana Pakhomova braced by Alexander Shevchenko [World Curling Federation/Roman Suda]
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China opened with a single with hammer, then saw Russia pull ahead 3-1 with single point steals before the break. China pulled level with a single in the 5th and a steal in the 6th, but Russia posted a decisive 3 in the 7th to claim the 6-3 win and their playoff spot. An excited Russian skip Marat Romanov said, “Our performance has exceeded our expectations. This is the first time we’ve reached such heights at the World Championships.”

Norwegian rookies Terge Rafdal and Tone Edvarsen with Jostein Stordahl
 [World Curling Federation/Roman Suda]
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Norway went into today's games knowing they had at least a tie-break. Coach Thoralf Hognestad was philosophical about his team's defeats by Canada and Scotland, but unhappy at the loss to the struggling Czechs, a game where he felt his team blew more than enough chances to win.

They almost blew their game against bottom team Germany, needing an extra end to post a 7-6 victory after giving up a steal in the 8th.

Germany's rookie skip Marcus Sieger
 [World Curling Federation/Roman Suda]
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German coach Helmar Erlewein, acknowledging a new line-up, had limited ambitions for this Championship; a desire to qualify for next year. In the final draw his team avoided automatic relegation by defeating Sweden 7-3.

USA lead Jacqui Kapinowski, braced by Jimmy Joseph with Jim Pierce [World Curling Federation/Roman Suda]
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USA, who began the competition with definite plans on a medal, had only the morning game, a vital third victory, 9-3 over the host Czechs. They then had an anxious wait to see whether the afternoon results would go their way. They did, with the Czechs losing to Korea 7-3 and Sweden's loss to Germany.

This put Germany, Sweden and the Czech Republic all at 2-7 with a series of playoff games to come to decide which two teams will be relegated to the Qualifying Tournament in Finland next November.

Canada plays Norway in the 1 vs 2 game tomorrow. The winner goes to the final, the loser plays the winner of the 3 vs 4 game between Russia and Scotland. Russia beat Scotland 7-3 on the opening day.

  1. Canada 9-0 (1 vs 2)
  2. Norway 6-3 (1 vs 2)
  3. Russia 6-3 (3 vs 4)
  4. Scotland 6-3 (3 vs 4)
  5. China 5-4 (qualified for Korea 2012)
  6. Korea 4-5 (qualified for Korea 2012 as host)
  7. USA 3-6 (qualified for Korea 2012)
Germany 2-7
Sweden 2-7
Czech Republic 2-7

You can see the full schedule, results and tables in our Worlds 2011 section of the wheelchaircurling.com website.

Line scores are available HERE and a large gallery of photos are available HERE

Team Ficek three-peats as N. Ontario champions

Team Ficek (from 2010 Nationals)
Wayne Ficek, Mark Wherrett, Chester Draper, Cindy Hoffstrom, Denise Miault

Wayne Ficek's Kenora/Sudbury squad won their third consecutive provincial title when they beat Sudbury newcomers Steve Daniel's newcomers 5-4 in the final of  the Shoppers Home Health Care NOCA Wheelchair Provincial Championships at the Fort William CC.

The teams exchanged singles with hammer through 5 ends, but Ficek then stole in the 6th and 7th to go ahead 5-2. In the final end, sitting two, Daniel had a draw for a third point to force an extra but came up short. (Thank you Michael Alberg.)

Steve Daniel Wayne Ficek
(The Chronicle-Journal/Brent Linton)

Team Ficek will now represent Northern Ontario at the TMX Canadian Nationals in Edmonton March 20-27.

Line scores are HERE. An event poster, team rosters, schedule and information is available HERE

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Defending champions versus the rookies for N. Ontario title

Defending champions Team Ficek of Kenora/Dryden went undefeated during round robin play and by rule will have two opportunities to add a third consecutive Northern Ontario title when they face Sudbury rookies Team Daniel in the final of the Shoppers Home Health Care NOCA Wheelchair Provincial Championships at the Fort William CC on Sunday Feb 27.

Ficek posted their third round robin win, over Sonego 11-4, on the strength of consecutive 4s either side of the break. Steve Daniel's Sudbury team beat home side Levesque 10-9. They opened with a 4 but gave up 3 in the 8th and needed a single in the extra end to force a series of tie-breaks to decide who played Fiek in the final.

In the first  tie-break game Daniel again went to an extra end against Sonego, this time stealing 2 to win 8-6. Daniel then played Levesque for the second time today, taking a 7-1 lead into the break. Levesque took two in the 5th end and stole 3 more to pull within one with an end to go, but Daniel claimed his place in the final with a single point in the 8th and an 8-6 win.

Game 1 of the final starts 10.30AM local time, and Ficek will clam the title if his team wins. If they lose, there will be a rematch at 2.30PM with the winner of that game going on to Edmonton Nationals in March.

Line scores are HERE. Despite detailed instructions I haven't been able to find the UStream video coverage from the club. Your luck may be better than mine. Check the Fort William CC website for details.

An event poster, team rosters, schedule and information is available HERE

Worlds Day 5 - Unbeaten Canada clinch playoff spot.

Canadian lead Sonja Gaudet using an off side brace
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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Alberta's patient alternate Bruno Yizek was given a game at 2nd against Germany (1-6) in the morning draw that saw Canada (8-0) coast to a 13-0 win in six ends. The opposition promised to be tougher in the afternoon, but Canada stole an early 4-0 lead over Norway (5-3) on their way to a 7-4 win that guaranteed them a place in the Page 1 vs 2 playoff game.

Canada front end Bruno Yizek and Sonja Gaudet
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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Norway had lost to the Czech Republic in the morning draw, again by falling behind early. Though they tied the game after 6 ends, and were just one down with hammer in the 8th, they were unable to deny the Czechs their second win, losing 6-4.

Norway's coach Thoralf Hognestad talks to his team
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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Norwegian skip Rune Lorentsen remained upbeat saying “with two beginners and our third player who has never been in the Worlds before, our performance this week is above all our expectations.” They face last place Germany tomorrow, and with the other 3 loss teams playing each other, are guaranteed a playoff spot with a win.

Scottish rookie Gregor Ewan wonders what he's done
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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Scotland (6-1) clinched their playoff spot with a 5-4 win over Korea (3-5). “When you come to the world championships your first goal is to get the business end of the week,” said skip Aileen Neilson. “[then) we take stock and focus and start the competition again.” Three losses guarantees a playoff spot.


China's skip Taeyeong Jeong
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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China (4-3) beat Sweden (2-5) 5-3 in their only game today, but have a tough finish against Scotland and Russia tomorrow. Russia needed a steal of 2 in an extra end to put away the disappointing Americans who again dug themselves a huge hole by giving up a big end, this time a five before the break, that single point steals were unable to overcome.

USA coach Steve Brown discusses the extra end against Russia
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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USA had posted a decisive 12-3 win to dent Korea's playoff hopes in the morning draw but relegation to the Qulifying Tournament is now a very real possibility for a USA team who had made the playoffs at the 2009 Worlds and 2010 Paralympics. They play the Czechs tomorrow in a must win game for both teams.


Jimmy Joseph with Jacqui Kapinowski
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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Another team who will be fighting for survival are Paralympic bronze medallists Sweden who play Russia tomorrow. Both teams will be highly motivated; for opposite reasons.

Swedish coach Jalle Jungnell encouraging his team [World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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Standings after Draw 10

Canada 8-0 (Qualified for playoffs)
Scotland 6-1 (Qualified for playoffs)
Norway 5-3
China 4-3
Russia 4-3
Korea 3-5
Sweden 2-5
Czech Republic 2-5
USA 2-6
Germany 1-6

Canada plays Scotland tomorrow.  You can see the full schedule, results and tables in our Worlds 2011 section of the wheelchaircurling.com website.

Line scores are available HERE and a large gallery of photos are available HERE

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ficek takes early lead at No. Ontario Provincials

Defending champions Team Ficek needed every part of the 4 he put on the board to draw level after 7 ends against home club favourite Carl Levesque in the opening draw of the Shoppers Home Health Care NOCA Wheelchair Provincial Championships at the Fort William CC.

Though ahead 5-1 at the 4th end break, Levesque ended on the losing side of the 8-7 final score.

Steve Daniel's rookie Sudbury squad must have been wondering what all the fuss was about as they stole their way to a 5-0 lead after their first 3 ends of serious competition. The bubble burst, however, when Fort William's Sonego rink bounced back with steals of their own in the second half to force an extra end, which they stole to win 8-7.

The second draw was a dose of reality for the rookies as Ficek's experienced squad put 11 unanswered points on the board before Daniel posted a consolation single in the 7th and shook hands after the 11-1 loss.

Levesque scored a narrow 8-7 win over clubmate Sonego in the afternoon draw. He started with a 3 but was down a point after 6 ends. Another 3 in the 7th gave him the victory.

Line scores are HERE and I'm told the club planned to webcast the games, though I wasn't able to find a working link. Did anyone else have better luck?

An event poster, team rosters, schedule and information is available HERE

Worlds Day 4 - Canada alone at top after Scotland end Norway's unbeaten run

Norway's run of 22 games without defeat came to a decisive halt when they faced Scotland in Draw 7 of the World Championships in Prague. The game went with hammer, with Scotland holding a 3-1 edge at the break, before the Scots posted steals of 3 in the 5th and 6th before early handshakes and a 9-1 win.

Scots skip Aileen Nielson pointing to the exact spot for the stone to finish [World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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The win put Scotland in a tie with Norway for second place and skip Aileen Nielson was delighted to have broken Norway's streak.  "My team played a phenomenal game. But we need to keep our heads screwed on because we’ve still got three more games to go.” Scotland had beaten Germany 10-4 earlier in the day but still have to face Korea, China and Canada.

Scotland's 3rd Tom Killin braced by Gregor Ewan in action against Germany
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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Canada had a very tough 5-4 win over the Czech Republic to maintain their unbeaten record and claim sole ownership of the top of the table. The Czechs went out to an early 3-0 lead before seeing it slip away in a series of single point steals. Skip Radek Pokorný said his team had tried hard to surprise Canada and thought they did that, managing to force Canada into some difficult situations.

Canadian Ina Forrest and Czech Martin Tluk [World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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Korea kept their playoff hopes alive with an 8-2 win on four consecutive steals over fellow challengers Russia, though Russia regrouped to post a 14-0 win over an emotionally drained Czech Republic.



Korea's Haenam Yang using a crossover delivery, braced by Giteak Kuon [World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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China handed Germany their second loss of the day, and kept their playoff hopes on track with the 11-1 win. They are tied with Korea and Russia for fourth place.

China's He Jun
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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Sweden won their second game and put paid to USA's medal chances with a 9-6 win. USA have lost some very close games this week, but in a game they had to win they were down 5-0 after two ends despite having hammer. They pulled back to level the scores and started the 7th with hammer but gave up 3 and lost 9-6.


Sweden's Patrik Burman braced by
Kristina Ulander
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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“It feels very good to have a win finally again,” said coach and last year's skip Jalle Jungnell “It’s very hard as you see things so much more clearly from above. it’s very clear what the team needs to do! And you get frustrated that you can’t actually play the shot.”

Table after Draw 8

Canada 6-0
Norway 5-1
Scotland 5-1
China 3-3
Korea 3-3
Russia 3-3
Sweden 2-4
Germany 1-5
Czech Republic 1-5
USA 1-5

Canada plays Germany and Norway tomorrow.  You can see the full schedule, results and tables in our Worlds 2011 section of the wheelchaircurling.com website.

Line scores are available HERE and a large gallery of photos are available HERE

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Weekly Poll #8 - Should the Nationals charge for admission?

This week's poll asks whether there should be an admission charge at the National Wheelchair Curling Championships.

Last year Kelowna decided not to charge because they wanted to encourage people to watch the event and spread the word.

The Edmonton organizing committee have decided to take a different approach. From the CCA website:

Tickets


$50 Week Pass (includes all draws, Opening and Closing Ceremonies, Friday and Saturday Party entrance)

**Week Passes are HALF PRICE if purchased before March 1, 2011**


$10 Day Pass (includes 2 draws, and Friday or Saturday Party entrance if applicable)

$5 Draw (includes 1 draw, and Friday or Saturday Party entrance if applicable)


So this week's question - should spectators be charged to watch the National Wheelchair Curling Championships? Press the button on the right margin of the blog, that corresponds to your answer.

If you have an opinion on the Edmonton policy, share it in the comments below.

In last week's poll, 84% of voters felt that Canada would make the podium, 46% picked USA, 37% chose China and Korea, 28% chose Norway (smart people) and 18% picked Sweden. None of the others reached 10%.

Fort William CC hosts Northern Ontario Provincials Feb 25-27

The Shoppers Home Health Care NOCA Wheelchair Provincial Championships begin Friday February 25th 1030AM at the Fort William CC in Thunder Bay.

Defending champion Team Ficek, out of Kenora and Dryden, are hoping for a third consecutive appearance at the Nationals in Edmonton in March. He admitted his team underperformed last year, going 3-6 after making it to a playoff tie-break game the year before. This year, after a couple of warm-up wins over Manitoba, he says his team is raring to go.

To win he will have to get past home club Team Levesque, coached by Dave Kawahara who was instrumental in bringing wheelchair curling to Northern Ontario. Carl Levesque skipped the first provincial team, which included Wayne Ficek and Mark Wherrett, now his competitors. Fort William CC is also fielding a team skipped by Gino Sonego.

Sudbury joins the oarty this year, sending a team of rookie curlers but experienced athletes skipped by Steve Daniel.

Tournament format is a round robin with the top two teams playing in the final, 10.30AM Sunday February 27.

The club has installed webcams - try the club website. You can also follow scores on playdowns.com

An event poster, team rosters, schedule and information is available HERE

Worlds Day 3 - Norway and Canada continue to win


Jostein Stordahl and skip Rune Lorentsen with China's skip Wang Haitao
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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Norway added another couple of wins to their impressive string of 22 consecutive victories when they faced Korea and China on Day 3 of the World Championships in Prague.

In the morning draw steals in the 4th and 7th saw off China 6-3. In the afternoon against Korea they opened with two but then gave up four before steadying with steals in ends 4, 5 and 6. Korea levelled the score at 7-7 with a three in the 7th end, but Norway took their one in the 8th to win 8-7.

Norway 2nd Tone Edvarsen watched by Jostein Stordahl
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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Canada kept pace with Norway, beating Russia 7-3 in the morning draw. A steal of two in the 5th was decisive. In the afternoon against struggling Sweden, Canada stole each of the first four ends, again winning 7-3.

Canada's Darryl Neighbour and skip Jim Armstrong await a decision
by Russia's
Andrey Smirnov and skip Marat Romanov
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]

Scotland remain at just one loss after beating USA 6-5. USA started well, taking one and then stealing 2 for an unfamiliar early lead before seeing it disappear when Scotland posted four in the 3rd. An exchange of singles the rest of the way gave Scotland the 8-7 win.


A USA between ends team meeting
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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USA have ridden the confidence of their skip Goose Perez to the playoffs the last two years, but at 1-3 going into the afternoon draw against China they found themselves down by 4 before they gave up the hammer. China later posted a four and a three in an 11-4 win that had the hallmarks of a losing team pressing.

Sweden's coach Jalle Jungnell has had a tough transition from last year skipping the Paralympic bronze medallists. He saw his team fall behind 4-0 with the hammer playing Korea, and then watched Korea post the biggest end of the tournament, a 5 just after the break on the way to a 10-6 final.

Life was no easier in the afternoon as they faced Canada, who stole the first six points for a 7-3 win. “The Swedes had a tough first game today and sometimes it’s a little tough to re-gear and refocus,” said Canadian Skip Jim Armstrong. “I think we maybe just caught Glenn [Ikonen, Swedish Skip] on a bad day, on a rebound."

Sweden's skip Glenn Ikonen
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]

Winless Germany got off to a strong start against the host Czech Republic. A three in the 2nd was followed by a steal, and though the Czechs rallied with a steal of their own in the 7th to get to within two, Germany prevailed for their first win, 6-4.

German skip Marcus Sieger
[World Curling Federation/Vladimir Nosek]
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A relieved Marcus Sieger, who has stepped up to skip while still throwing 3rd stones said, “We are happy to have our first victory. it’s my first world championship as skip so it’s a new experience for me. I think I have still got a lot to learn – I need to improve on strategy!”

Canada plays Czech Republic tomorrow and Norway plays Scotland.  You can see the full schedule, results and tables in our Worlds 2011 section of the wheelchaircurling.com website.

Line scores are available HERE and a large gallery of photos are available HERE

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Norway wins 20 straight, stays top with Canada

Rune Lorentsen - Norway skip
[World Curling Federation/Pavla Vrbova]
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Norway won their twentieth consecutive match this morning, beating Russia 7-3. "This afternoon," promised coach Thoralf Hognestad, "we will play tennis!"

Canada continued their run of nail-biting single point victories with a 6-5 win over Korea. They were behind 3-2 at the 4th end break, and gave up a steal in the 5th, but then scored the next four points. Korean skip Tae Yeong Jeong, needing two to force an extra, was light on his final draw and managed only a single.


Canada skip Jim Armstrong braced by Ina Forrest
[World Curling Federation/Pavla Vrbova]
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All three of Canada's wins have been decided by a single point.  “Once again we had to come from behind, I think it speaks for the calibre of play generally” said Canadian Skip Jim Armstrong. “Every game has gone to the last rock.”

Scotland regrouped from yesterday's disappointing loss to Russia to post two wins, 10-2 over the Czechs and 7-4 over Sweden.

Scotland's skip Aileen Nielson
[World Curling Federation/Pavla Vrbova]

“Sometimes it’s that last stone that makes the difference,” said Scottish Skip Aileen Neilson, who ended Sweden’s chances of tying up the game in the eighth end with her last stone. “Sometimes you just do the maths and I thought if I get rid of that stone he [Swedish Skip Glenn Ikonen] is not going to get his two. That was the objective and it came off.” Not only was the takeout successful, it padded the score with a steal.

USA finally entered the win column, scoring 4 in the 7th to sink Germany 9-3.

USA skip 'Goose' Perez braced by Jimmyy Joseph
[World Curling Federation/Pavla Vrbova]

“I think the difference between yesterday and today is that we shot to make the shots and yesterday sometimes we felt that we were shooting not to miss. The key shots we needed to make today – we did!” exclaimed US Skip Augusto Perez.

Germany mounted a comeback against Russia in the afternoon after giving up a 4 in the 6th. They stole 2 in the 8th to force an extra end, but it wasn't enough as Russia took their one to win 8-7 and leave Germany as the only team without a win.

Hosts Czech Republic won their first game, a convincing 9-3 defeat of China in a game where they stole points in 5 of the 7 ends.

Czech skip Radek Pokorný and Third Martin Tluk
[World Curling Federation/Pavla Vrbova]
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Czech Skip Radek Pokorný, playing at his first World Championship, said: “We were quite disappointed to have lost so badly to Scotland this morning as every game is important. We were just trying to forget about this loss. Right from the start we put China under pressure. They were forced to make difficult shots and our tactic paid off.”

Canada play Russia and Sweden tomorrow. You can see the full schedule, results and tables in our Worlds 2011 section of the wheelchaircurling.com website.

Line scores are available HERE and a large gallery of photos are available HERE

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

South Korea to host 2012 Worlds, Qualifiers go to Finland again

Chuncheon City, in South Korea will host the 2012 World Wheelchair Curling Championship. The event will be held in the Uiam Ice Rink, Chuncheon City, Gangwon Province between 18-25 February 2012.
The World Championship Qualifying tournament, open to all countries not in the top seven teams (excluding Korea) at this year's Worlds in Prague, will be held as last year, at the Kisakallio Institute in Lohja, Finland from 29th October to 5th November 2011.

Worlds Day 1 - Canada overcome early scare, share lead with Norway

[World Curling Federation/Pavla Vrbova]

Canada are not known as fast starters at international competitions, and faced a tough opening day against China and USA. China had to qualify through the challenge round last November, but impressed observers with their accurate up-weight hitting, much as Korea had done when they came from nowhere to claim silver in 2008.

China took 1 with hammer, then stole 2 only to give momentum back to Canada who stole 1 just before the break. China added to their lead however, with singles in 5 and a steal of 1 in 6 to go ahead 5-2 with two ends remaining.

Canada were held to one in the 7th but then came through with a big steal of two in the 8th to force an extra end, winning 6-5 with another steal when China's skip Haitao Wang’s final stone was too heavy.

Canada rode their good fortune into their afternoon draw against USA. This time Canada started well, following a blank first end with a 3 with hammer. An exchange of singles left USA down 5-3 in the 8th and though they stole the last point, it wasn't enough, Canada winning 5-4 to join Norway at the top of the standings.

Norway beat USA in the morning. The pattern of a single and a steal was broken by Norway's 2 with hammer in the 8th for a 5-4 win. Long-time skip Rune Lorentsen said: “We are extremely pleased to have done so well on the first day. I have to give credit to Terje [Rafdal] and Tone [Edvardsen] the new lead and second on our team.”

Norway saw off regional rivals Sweden 8-3 in seven ends in the afternoon draw, stealing 2 in the 6th and 3 in the 7th before handshakes.

In the other morning matches, Sweden went out to a 5-0 lead against hosts Czech Republic but saw it whittled away with a succession of single point steals. Sweden needed their single with hammer in the final end for their 6-4 win.

Korea posted 3's in the 2nd and 7th ends but needed a stolen single in the final end to complete their 7-5 win over Germany.


Germany's coach Helmar Erlewein with Stefan Deuschl, Marcus Sieger and Christiane Steger[World Curling Federation/Pavla Vrbova]

Scotland had a bye in the morning and dug themselves a big hole in their afternoon game against qualifiers Russia, falling behind 4-0 after 3 ends. Russia won 7-3, their skip Marat Romanov joking afterwards that traditionally they have lost their first game so to win was a bit of a surprise.

Scot Angie Malone with Russians Alexander Shevchenko, Andrey Smirnov and Svetlana Pakhomova[World Curling Federation/Pavla Vrbova]
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The loss against a team they would have expected to beat will not have done much to help the Scots team's confidence after a series of international setbacks.

China demonstrated they are the new Asian team to watch in their 9-3 win over a Korean team lacking international experience.


China's 2nd Guangqin Xu demonstrates the team's face to the ice power delivery
[World Curling Federation/Pavla Vrbova]

The day's results have Canada and Norway at the top of the table while USA Scotland, Czech Republic and Germany await their first win.

Canada play just one game tomorrow, against Korea in the morning.
You can see results and tables in our Worlds 2011 section of the wheelchaircurling.com website.

Line scores are available HERE

Monday, February 21, 2011

Canada begin Worlds title defense against China

Team Canada begin their defense of their 2009 Worlds title in Prague 9.30AM local time Tuesday February 22 against China, one of the two teams that a gained a spot through the Qualifying tournament in Finland last November.

With not much activity this season to guage how Canada might fare, I asked the CCA's Program Director, Gerry Peckham, for his assessment. That the team would do its best and hope for a place on the podium was a given.

Here's what he had to say:

This is a new quadrennial but 2014 is not that far away and this will be our first real opportunity to compare our current performance levels against the old and new line ups from other countries.


We'll be analyzing current and potential levels of play among the other countries; in particular those that have challenged for the podium in the past along with those we expect to challenge going forward. We're oredominately interested in execution percentages and score board management.

We'll also be establishing what the current performance standards are internationally as they relate to draw execution, take out execution, strategy, managing playing conditions and ice reading skills. Are there any new techniques or approaches being employed?

We're hopeful Team Canada can maintain their form and achieve new performance benchmarks individually and collectively. This will, however, be influenced by ice conditions.
 

This Championship will be a very challenging time for Jim considering his personal circumstances. Hopefully this will provide him with the opportunity to focus on the task at hand, which is also his passion. He will be well supported by team mates and coaches.

You can follow the Championship at our special Worlds section on wheelchaircurling.com, with the schedule, scores, tables and regular reports.

The schedule is available for download HERE. The sheets do have webcams, though we'll have to see whether they are operating. Line scores are promised HERE.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Minnesotans want to know why they can't roll and deliver

video
FOX 21 News

Shawn Corbin and Scott Anderson took up wheelchair curling when they visited the Duluth CC on a Courage  Center Duluth sponsored learn to curl night.

“There was no one here to teach us how to shoot from a wheelchair [so we] kind of developed a way to simulate their sliding release,” Shawn told Eric Gullickson, FOX 21 News.

“We tried several different methods of delivery,” says Anderson, “We didn't realize there was one standard way to do it. And we came up with this method and thought this is really the best method or most practical way to do it.”

They feel the WCF rule mandating a stationary wheelchair needs to be changed but have been told the rule exists to make the sport as inclusive as possible.

Shawn is skeptical. "I don't know who exactly wrote the rules, who they were writing them for,” he said.

“If curling from a stand still position worked the best the able bodied curlers would do it too,” added able-bodied teammate Jeff Anderson. “It imitates actual curling much more than a stationary delivery and pushing a rock.”

Watching the video, both delivered stones with impressive weight and direction, but the front of their chairs moved considerably during release. They should find that a stationary delivery, once practiced, would produce far greater accuracy and weight control than propelling their chair and rock before pushing, unbraced, at the target.

Scotland's Aileen Neilson to be first female skip at World event

Team Scotland at Edinburgh Airport en route to Prague Feb 18
Michael McKenzie, Tom Killin, Aileen Neilson, Gregor Ewan, Angie Malone
[photo - Judy Mackenzie via
Bob Cowan's blog]

Aileen Neilson, a 39 year old primary school teacher is set to become the first woman to skip her national side at a World Championship when she leads Scotland against Russia Tuesday afternoon in Prague.

“Last year, I was used to throwing the last stone for the team, but now I’m skip I’m having to make all the big decisions as well for the team, so there’s a bit of pressure that comes with the role," she told Paul Thomson of the East Kilbride News.

“But, hopefully, I can use all the skills and knowledge I’ve gained over the last year to our advantage.

“We want to be at the business end of the tournament so as long as we qualify for the semi-finals we won’t be too disheartened.

“But we want a place on the podium – that is our goal for this championship."

The team competed in an international spiel in Lanarkshire in January, losing to Canada in the final, and were in Perth for some training, game practice and team bonding last week.

While Sheila Swan will coach the team in the place of visa delayed new National Coach Tony Zummack, Aileen says: “The team feel good about our chances, so hopefully Tony likes what he sees and we can come back to Scotland with a medal round our necks.”

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thank you Team Germany

I would like to express my thanks to Jochen Merkt and the members of Team Germany for their generous donation in support of the website and blog.

Their donation helps make both possible. If you would like to contribute to the running of the website and blog, you can do so by making a contribution of any amount through PayPal using the DONATE button at the top of the blog, or by writing to eric@wheelchaircurling.com for my mail address

Friday, February 18, 2011

Weekly Poll #7 - Who'll make the podium in Prague?

This week we're asking who you think will make the podium at the 7th World Wheelchair Curling Championships in Prague starting next Tuesday, February 22.

Click three of the buttons next to the ten listed teams on the right side of the blog. Poll closes when the competition begins 9.30AM local time. (12.30AM Pacific)

If you would like to share your prediction of the order the top three teams will finish, add your informed opinion, or wild guess, to the comments below. No guts, no glory.

Please remember that comments posted anonymously will disappear without trace, never to be seen again.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to Prague we go

Play at the 2011 World Wheelchair Curling Championships begins next Tuesday, February 22, at the Curling Hall Roztyly, in Prague.

Hosts Czech Republic, and the top seven teams from the 2009 Worlds led by defending champions Canada, will be joined by qualifiers China and Russia in a ten team round robin with a page playoff and final a week later on March 1st.

Canada will be heavy favourites having won both Worlds in 2009 and Paralympics in 2010, albeit on home ice. They field their Paralympic team with Alberta's Bruno Yizek at alternate replacing Manitoba's Chris Sobkowicz from an otherwise all British Columbia 2009 World gold medal team.

Team Canada 2011
Jim Armstrong,
Darryl Neighbour, Ina Forrest, Sonja Gaudet and Bruno Yizek

Canada made only a couple of competitive appearances this season; a split squad played each other in the final of the 2010 Richmond International, and the 2011 team went unbeaten in an international spiel in Scotland in January.

The one cloud might be how recent legal distractions may have interrupted skip Jim Armstrong's mental preparation, and indeed may have been a distraction to what has been a very close-knit group. But this is a team that has worked together for over two years now, like each other and have good team dynamics, overseen by sports psychologist Dr. Laura Farres who with Coach Joe Rea and Team Leader Wendy Morgan will be with the team in Prague.

In the past Canada has not always got off to a fast start, and in Prague they have a tough opening three games against China, USA and Korea just three days after arriving in Europe.

Team Korea 2011
Taeyeong Jeong, Giteak Kuon, Haenam Yang, Young-a Jung, Oejeong Kang

Korea were the team that had all the international coaches worried when they brought an outstanding hitting game to challenge Norway in the 2008 Worlds final. A disappointing 2009 Worlds was followed by a heroic comeback against Canada in the Paralympic final, when they spotted Canada to an 8-1 half-time lead and fell just one short in an 8-7 loss.

This year's team is completely new and untested against this calibre of opposition. I have been told that Korea sends its club champion to represent their country (can anyone confirm?) which might explain the wholesale change in personnel. It will be a major surprise as well as a testament to the depth of talent in Korea if a rookie squad can compete against the experience of most of the other teams.

Team Sweden 2011
Gert Erlandsson, Glenn Ikonen (skip), Kristina Ulander, Patrik Kallin and Patrik Burman

Paralympic bronze medallists Sweden return with their very experienced skip, Jalle Jungnell, now coaching. His Vancouver third, Glenn Ikonen, who ran afoul of the Paralympic drug testers, has served his 6 month suspension and is now skipping. Patrik Burman moves from 2nd to 3rd and last year's alternate, Patrik Kallin who did so well stepping into the team at the tie-break game, plays 2nd.

Long-time lead Anette Wilhelm has retired, her place taken by Kristina Ulander who was the alternate in 2008.

Sweden faced a lot of adversity last year in Vancouver. Skip Jungnell had barely played since a serious illness. They lost their 3rd, who had taken over last stones. But they could rely on the presence and experience of one of Sweden's most decorated players, Tomas Nordin, to see them through tough times. This year their success may depend on Jalle Jungnell's ability not only to come up with a winning game plan, but to lead from off the ice.

Team USA - 2011
"Goose" Perez, James Pierce, Jimmy Joseph, Jaqui Kapinowski, Penny Greely

One group not lacking in confidence is the ever-positive Team USA. They suffered a blow when they lost the services of Patrick McDonald to shoulder surgery. McDonald, a veteran, brought a steely-eyed seriousness to a group not short of things to say. He is replaced by Penny Greely, but the core of the team remain players who have reached the playoffs every year since 2008.

With skip Augusto Perez maturing and not trying to win the game with every shot, and some solid support from James Pierce, Jimmy Joseph and lead Jacqui Kapinowski, this may be USA's year to improve on their solitary bronze medal.
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Team Norway - 2011
Rune Lorentsen, Jostein Stordahl, Tone Edvarsen, Terge Rafdal, Runar Bjørnstad

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"I have a good feeling," says Norway's coach Thoralf Hognestad, who had taken his national team to two World titles before handing over to Danish coach Per Christensen for the Paralympics. He is back with Rune Lorentsen at skip and Jostein Stordahl at 3rd, but with a brand new front end. Tone Edvarsen, the first player to take advantage of the WCF rule change that allows power wheelchairs onto the ice, plays 2nd and Terge Rafdal is the lead.

Norway have been proof that results don't rely on good statistics. When they were winning they were never atop the stat charts, though it could be argued that their results in Vancouver in 2009 and 2010 were in line with the overall shooting percentages.

Norway had an impressive run of 17 unbeaten games earlier this season, culminating in a win at the Prague Open. If Rune has his confidence back and Thoralf has them implement his famous "wheelchair curling not regular curling" game plan, they may well make a come back, despite their inexperienced front end.

Team Scotland - 2011
Gregor Ewan, Tom Killin, Aileen Nielsen, Angie Malone, Michael McKenzie

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Scotland have made their first major changes since Frank Duffy retired after Torino. Skip Michael McCreadie has taken a year off from the national team while he decides whether he wants to compete internationally again. I think it would be fair to say that while he was an excellent 3rd to Duffy, he never looked comfortable at skip.

That role now passes to Aileen Nielsen who will be the first female to skip a national side at a World event, though she threw 4th stones at the Vancouver Paralympics. She is supported by two veterans, Angie Malone back at lead after serious illness, and Tom Killin who will be a very experienced vice.

The two newcomers are Gregor Ewan, who somewhat rashly told a reporter he was after Aileen's job, and Michael McKenzie, who played under Ewan on the current British Championship team.

Scotland, who compete as Great Britain at the Paralympics, are a puzzle: highly experienced, well funded and trained, yet with little to show for the resources poured into the program since a bronze medal in 2007. On paper they look a strong side, but a 10-17 performance over the past three years indicates something is missing. 

New British national coach Tony Zummack has been unable to take up his position because of paperwork delays in Scotland, so the team will be led by Sheila Swan, who assisted their previous coach Tom Pendreigh. On the plus side she knows the team. On the negative side, the team did not thrive under Pendreigh and his delivery position theories.

It remains to be seen who will make the team and where they will throw from. Those decisions will be made by Swan. Zummack hopes to be with the team in time for the Scottish Championships later in March.

Team Germany 2011
Marcus Sieger (skip) Jens Gäbel, Christiane Steger, Stefan Deuschl, Heike Melchior

Germany ditched their ebullient skip Jens Jäger after the Paralympics where they fell from a 2009 bronze medal to a tied for last 3-6 record in 2010 with virtually the same team.

Marcus Sieger steps up to skip though he will continue to throw 3rd stones.  Jens Gäbel throws last rocks, newcomer Stefan Deuschl plays 2nd while Christiane Steger returns at lead.

Last year Coach Helmar Erlewein said they would treat Canada as just another game, and not treat them differently from other teams. "We have a master plan," he said, "which we can vary if required."  This year he tells me that "because of personnel changes, the team is working on a new tactical concept."

In 2009 Germany had a magical round robin that put them into the 1 vs 2 playoff game. Whether this year's team without Jäger will channel the magic of the last rock of the bronze medal game in 2009, or the disappointment of 2010, will depend on whether their new tactical approach works.
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Team China 2011
Wang Haitao, Liu Wei, He Jun, Xu Guangquin, Zhang Qiang

China opened many eyes at the World Qualifying Tournament in Finland by their low to the ice delivery and super heavy hitting. They were the tough luck team in 2009, displaced from automatic qualification this year by the host team. It did, however, give China an opportunity to gain international experience by playing nine games in Finland. 

Their team includes three of the players who soundly beat Canada during round robin play at the 2009 Worlds, and if their tactical approach can come close to their hitting, they will contend for a playoff spot.

Team Russia 2011
Marat Romanov, Andrey Smirnov, Alexander Shevchenko, Svetlana Pakhomova, Oxana Slesarenko

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Russia were the last team to qualify for the event, having to beat two 2010 Paralympic teams, Japan and Italy, in the Qualifying playoffs to book their spot in Prague. With the 2014 Paralympics to be held in Sochi, they are the only team competing in Prague who will not need the qualifying points to be amassed over the next three World Championships in order to compete in 2014.


Team Czech Republic - 2011
Radek Pokorný (skip), Martin Tluk, Radek Musílek, Michaela Charvátová, Jana Břinčilová
Finally, the host team Czech Republic are a team on the periphery of international competition. They have competed in the last three Qualifying tournaments prior to 2010 when they did not need to qualify as hosts in 2011.

Their best result was a thrid place finish in 2008 on home ice with the same team that will compete this year. In fact the only changes to the team membership since 2006 has been at lead, currently Michaela Charvátová.

Team Czech Republic, this year skipped by Radek Pokorný, with Martin Tluk at 3rd and Radek Musílek listed at 2nd will do well despite playing on home ice, if they avoid the 2011 Qualifying tournament next November.