Great Britain coach Tony Zummack took advantage of six weeks of summer ice to hold intensive training sessions for British curlers interested in competing for an eventual place on the 2014 Sochi Paralympics squad.
"We had a series of all day Wednesday sessions in May and June where we had the opportunity to look at a lot of athletes, including some who came up from England," he told me today. "This year's emphasis will be on technical development; helping the 8 players selected for the training squad develop their mechanics, throw more accurately. I don't see why wheelchair curlers can't hit the broom as consistently as the best able-bodied curlers.
"We have divided the group into two squads: an A squad skipped by Aileen Neilson with Tom Killin, Gregor Ewan and Angie Malone; with Michael McCreadie skipping the B squad, Jim Gault, Ian Donaldson and Gill Keith who have less international experience. Each team will have different development goals with the aim of producing a very competitive team in time for the 2012 Worlds.
That's not to say that others will not emerge before Sochi in 2014, or that all of the present 8 will stay the course, and Zummack promises to keep an open mind on future prospects.
"What I believe," he said, "is that we are on the cusp of a significant advance in shot execution and overall standard of play. While it is true that wheelchair curling without sweeping can never be as accurate as high performance regular curling, efficiencies in delivery combined with increased understanding of what is and is not possible to throw accurately, and what shots are likely to bring the biggest likelihood of success, should raise stats into the 70s."
He may be right, and the adoption of the off-side brace long advocated here, and other delivery refinements will help. I would, however, be more persuaded if I had not heard similar claims from both Canadian and European coaches for at least the past four years.
Zummack is taking one team to Cape Cod (Jim Gault replacing Michael McKenzie from the Prague team). There will be a high performance camp from August 26 through September 4 and then several European spiels before the Scottish team is chosen for the 2012 Worlds.