The World Wheelchair Curling Qualifying Tournament begins Saturday November 5th at the Kisakallio Sports Institute in Lohja, Finland, site of last year's event. Nine teams will compete: Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Slovakia and Switzerland.
They will play a full round robin, the top four teams entering a Page playoff on Thursday November 10. The top two finishers join the top eight from the 2011 World Championships, and will compete at the 2012 Worlds in Chuncheon City, South Korea next February 18-25 for Sochi Paralympics qualifying points.
Competition between the top teams is likely to be especially tough this year as Germany, Italy, Japan and Switzerland all competed at the Vancouver Paralympics, while the Czechs have the experience of hosting the 2011 Worlds.
There was a great deal of drama surrounding team Germany post Vancouver, with ebullient skip Jens Jäger shown the door after failing to build on his bronze medal performance at the 2009 Worlds. Unfortunately for Germany, Jäger's successor and ex-3rd, Marcus Sieger, was unable to avoid relegation in 2011 leading to Jäger's return to the national team.
Jäger has been traveling to European spiels with his own team, the Mainhattan Ice Wheelers, with mixed success, but arrives in Finland with a new coach as a favourite to gain at least a playoff spot.
No-one in Lohja has more experience than Swiss skip Manfred Bollinger, who impressed international coaches at the recent Kinross spiel where Switzerland defeated Canada en route to the final.
The other skips with Paralympic experience are Italy's Andrea Tabanelli who skipped the host side in Torino (2006), Denmark's Kenneth Ørbaekalso, also in Torino and Japan's Yoji Nakajima in Vancouver.
In a continuing trend, 8 of the 9 teams list two female members while the other, Slovakia, travel with just a four person team.
Hosts Finland are still looking for their first Worlds appearance. Radek Musilek returns to skip the Czech’s after their 10th place finish on home soil at the 2011 Worlds which sent them back to the qualification event.
Latvia, skipped by Aleksandrs Dimbovkis, are competing at the international level for just the second year. Slovakia’s Radoslav Duriš and his team hope it will be third time lucky after finishing 6th last year.
Tournament organizers plan live webcast coverage of some games.
The draw and game schedule can be found HERE. Results will be posted HERE.
You can see results from all major championships from 2006 by using the links on the events page at wheelchaircurling.com