Monday, December 29, 2008

Team USA to see in new year at training camp

Cape Cod CC members Russ Lemcke, Fred Flynn, Frank Balas and Todd Benedict
Team USA Augusto Perez, James Pierce, Jacqui Kapinowski and Jimmy Joseph.
Team USA will celebrate the new year in Falmouth, MA, hosted by the Cape Cod CC. They'll begin with a challenge match starting at 3.30 December 31st and train with the club's wheelchair team through January 3rd.

Anyone interested in watching the team that won a bronze medal at the 2008 Worlds prepare for the 2009 event, is invited to the club. For more information visit or call Mary Colacchio at 617-529-4534

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Northern Ontario planning cross border challenge

John Cameron reports in the Chronicle Journal that as many as 20 curlers are turning out at the Fort William Curling Club, and there will be a playdown February 1-3 for the right to play in the 2009 Nationals.

The MEDIChair Wheelchair Curling Association (way to go on the sponsorship, guys) is also planning a cross border challenge in Grand Marais, Minnesota, with the equally active Duluth team on, Jan. 17.

If you would like to be part of either a recreational or competitive team, call Dave Kawahara at 577-5818 or the Fort William club at 622-5377.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Press preview the new Hillcrest 2010 curling facility

Photograph by: Glenn Baglo/Vancouver Sun
The 2009 World Wheelchair Curling Championships will be the first event held at the brand new Olympic facility in the Hillcrest district of Vancouver, and Jim Armstrong and Georgina Wheatcroft were on hand at the press preview. [read Vancouver Sun coverage]

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Deadline Monday December 22nd for BC playdowns

CurlBC have finally abandoned selection camps, this year allowing a playdown to decide who goes to the 2009 Nationals in Halifax in March.

The deadline for registration is Monday December 22, and competition is slated to take place in Vernon, January 16-18.

Because of the mandate for mixed gender teams, participation is restricted by the number of women available to play. Four teams, including Jim Armstrong's 2008 national champions, are expected, and by agreement with Team Canada coaches, no more than two TC squad members may play on any one team.

Teams (unconfirmed):
Jim Armstrong, Frank LaBounty, Whitney Warren, Jackie Roy
Darryl Neighbour, Ina Forrest, Bob MacDonald, Rich Green
Gerry Austgarden, Sonja Gaudet, Ron Vaselenak, Cyril Kinakin/Jim Miller
Gary Cormack. Bill Lindstrom, Roy Crawford, Corinne Jensen

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Team Canada "not a closed shop" as 2009 version named

The additional two week wait is over and the coaches have finally announced the line-up for Team Canada 2009. As predicted in my November 27th post it is:

Jim Armstrong  (Richmond BC)
Darryl Neighbour  (Richmond BC)
Ina Forrest  (Armstrong BC)
Chris Sobkowicz  (Winnipeg MB)
Sonja Gaudet - (Vernon BC) alternate
Joe Rea (Prince George BC)  coach   Playing positions not yet decided.

The team includes three players from Team Canada 2008 (Darryl, Ina and Sonja) with Sonja the only holdover from the 2006 Torino gold medal team.

In a telephone interview shortly after the announcement, Team Director Gerry Peckham made the following points:

*There was very little to choose between any of the candidates, and the delay in announcing the team was to give the coaches additional opportunities to observe the players in meaningful competition.

*Sonja Gaudet earned her place with her performance, though there would have been a bias towards taking two women to avoid the risk of default were one to become injured.

*There was no regional bias at all. The coaches saw no problem with having an all-BC team. Chris Sobkowicz earned his place by his performance.

*Though a sports psychologist works with the team and has input in coaching discussions, team dynamics within the squad were excellent, with every player happy to work for the team, and with any other player.

*This team has been selected for the 2009 Worlds only. The squad of eight will be retained and may even be enlarged next year as several people not currently on the squad have caught the attention of TC coaches.

*The squad will start with a clean slate after the Worlds and will have to compete for their place on the 2010 Paralympics side.

*Team Canada is not a closed shop - any player, or player's coach, who feels that TC coaches should evaluate their performance are encouraged to contact either Joe Rea or Wendy Morgan (or Gerry himself.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pushing a ton of granite - for charity

Jim Taylor, an a wheelchair user since an accident playing rugby and now a keen curler, is today pushing a ton of granite for a mile in a sponsored charity appeal.  Here's what he says (thanks Bob Cowan):

As a keen curler, I am going to push a tonne of granite on a mile of ice to support The Hearts and Heroes Challenge, run by the Sportsman's Charity, with Poppyscotland and Scotland's rugby charity for disabled players, Hearts & Balls. Scottish Rugby's Murrayfield Centenary Fund will also be a beneficiary.

This involves me throwing 50 x 20kg (=44lb) curling stones (they weigh a tonne and I'm not kidding..!) on 75 consecutive lengths of ice. I'm stopping at 80 to be sure....

Please sponsor me to do this. But don't stop there. have a look at the website and think about entering a team or visit this link to see the fantastic sponsorship opportunities from £100 to £5000+.

I appreciate that times are hard, but for disabled sportsmen and service personnel, recession is a long term prospect!

Many, many thanks,  Jim Taylor

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No changes as Team Scotland 2009 announced

Bob Cowan, in his Curling Today blog, reports the announcement of Team Scotland 2009. There's no change from the team that tied for last place at 3-6 in Sursee, Switzerland inn 2008.

The same players competed as Great Britain in the recent Richmond Cashspiel: Michael McCreadie (skip), Aileen Nielson, Tom Killin, Jim Sellar and Rosemary Lenton, with coach Tom Pendreigh. [Read more on the Scottish selection]

"Wheelchair Watch" column in SWEEP! Magazine (December 08)

My "Wheelchair Watch" column for the December issue of SWEEP! Magazine is now available online.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sport surging in Nova Scotia prior to 2009 Canadian Nationals

The Lakeshore CC in Lower Sackville NS will host the 2009 Canadian National Championships on March, and expects a record number of provinces to compete. Programs in Saskatchewan, Quebec and  Newfoundland/Labrador hope to have teams ready to join the seven who participated in the 2008 event in Winnipeg MB.

Also growing is the local wheelchair curling program at the Lakeshore; so much so that the recreational program has doubled in size and moved from Mondays to Fridays for better ice availability. The competitive squad now has eleven members and the Provincial team will be selected from this group in January.  New curlers are always welcome. For more information call Laughie Rutt at 902-864-2737.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Wheelchair curling the roller derby of curling"

Jim Armstrong, in an interview with Don Fennell of the Richmond Review says: "Wheelchair curling is also very, very challenging and the level of play is just going to become greater. I’ve only been involved a year-and-a-half and I’d venture to say our Canadian group that we draw from is at least 15 per cent better mechanically than when I started and the results show it......

“I play quite a lot with Darryl Neighbour here, many times a week, and he’s as good as there is mechanically. You can’t teach experience and that makes the situation a little more complicated. There are very few players here that have any real curling background to draw from ... Able-bodied curling has gotten so good over the past few years since the free guard zone rule that there’s a potential risk of having a 1-0 game in a meaningful event. I call wheelchair curling the roller derby of curling because there’s always spills, action and enough misses to keep it interesting. No lead is ever safe.”  Read full article.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Team Canada 2009 announcement delayed again - new date December 17

The eight member Team Canada squad had been told that they would know ten days ago which five players would wear the Maple Leaf at the 2009 Worlds. That date was changed to the conclusion of the Richmond spiel. Today they were informed that they would be told by telephone  next Wednesday, December 17th.

The reason for the continued delay is not clear, even given that statistically there is little to choose between the candidates beyond (in my opinion) Armstrong, Neighbour and Forrest. Did performances at the Richmond event suggest the need for a rethink?

Will past practice be followed with two women making the squad? Will non-BC members Chris Sobkowicz and Bruno Yizek be included to give them the benefit of meaningful international competition prior to 2010? Or a compromise - Sonja Gaudet plus either Chris or Bruno? Or will experience win out and Gary Cormack and Gerry Austgarden hold on to their spots?

With six of the squad from BC and entries for the BC playdowns for the Canadian Nationals due by December 22, the choice has implications for BC's playdown teams who will be allowed only two Team Canada members on any one side.

You can add your choice for Team Canada 2009 by adding a comment to the couple of dozen guesses already posted on the December 10th Blog post.

Alberta steal $1,500 1st prize at Richmond International Cashspiel

Alberta proved that their round robin record was no fluke by stealing in the 8th and again in an extra end to post a 7-6 victory over Canada II's Jim Armstrong in the $5,000 Richmond International Cashspiel this afternoon.

Alberta      1  0  0  1  1  0  2  1  1   =  7
Canada II    0  1  2  0  0  3  0  0  0   =  6

Here's a report from an  anonymous spectator:

Armstrong loses!!!!   Alberta, with a couple of fortunate breaks in the early going, stole the 8th and extra end to beat Armstrong.

On the 8th, Armstrong made a 20 foot runback to spill one of two off the button to salvage a tie. On the extra, Armstrong had a hit and roll off his own rock on the side of the four foot. He needed a two foot roll, but only got about a foot, leaving Alberta with the steal.  Very entertaining....

Great Britain failed to recover from the disappointment of their semi-final loss, bowing to Richmond 10-6 in the 3 v 4 game, Vince Miele throwing 4th rocks.

In the consolation games Canada I beat Manitoba 10-2, and Scotland beat Victoria 7-5.

Final standings
1 Alberta      $1,500
2 Canada II   $1,000
3 Richmond    $750
4 Great Britain $400

Photographs from the event will be available at the Richmond Centre for Disability's website.

$5,000 Richmond International Cashspiel Semi-Final

The final day of the 2nd Annual Richmond International Cashspiel saw round robin winners Alberta blank 4th place hosts Richmond 15-0 in 6 ends in the first semi-final. Armstrong's Canada II squad took just 7 ends to defeat Michael McCreadie's Great Britain team 13-5 in the other semi-final.

Alberta will play Armstrong for the trophy and the $1500 1st prize. Richmond plays Great Britain for 3rd.

Alberta 15-0 (6 ends) Richmond
Canada II (Armstrong) 13-5 (7ends) Great Britain

Alberta v. Canada II

3rd place
Great Britain v. Richmond

With $50 at stake for each game won during the week, the other teams also played this morning, Manitoba edging Victoria 6-5 and Austgarden beating
Scotland 12-4

For team line-ups see entry for Day 1 December 10

The sponsors, Hosting BC, the Rick Hanson Foundation, the City of Richmond and the Richmond Centre for Disability, not only provided for a cash prize pool of $5,000 but also gave travel grants of $2,000 to the British team and $750 each to Alberta and Manitoba to help defray expenses. Victoria also received assistance from Hanson's Wheels in Motion.

Photographs from the event will eventually be available at the Richmond Centre for Disability's website.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Richmond International - Day 3

Alberta took first place after round robin play on the strength of a tournament best score in the team "draw to the button" test in Draw 3. Their overall mark of 5-2 was tied with Great Britain and Canada II and they will play host team Richmond in tomorrow's semi-final.

  Team       Won  Lost  Button  Distance
1 Alberta     4     2     Win     143"
2 GB          4     2     Win     230"
3 Canada II   5     1     Loss    283"
4 Richmond    4     2     Loss    291"
5 Canada I    2     4     Win     156"
6 Manitoba    2     4     Win     262"
7 Victoria    2     4     Loss    213"
8 Scotland    1     5     Loss    279"

Jim Armstrong chalked up another two wins but because his team's "draw to the button" skills test in Draw 3 was played head to head, their dismal seventh best scoring counted as a loss to Manitoba. Michael McCreadie's Great Britain squad showed some signs of life after struggling for much of the season, and will face Armstrong in tomorrow's semi-final.

Gerry Austgarden's Canada 1 team redeemed themselves with two wins, though it took an extra end for them to put away Manitoba.

Draw 6 - morning
Victoria  0-13 (5 ends) Canada II (Armstrong)
Scotland  4-8  Canada 1 (Austgarden)
Manitoba  9-6  Great Britain
Richmond  8-7  Alberta

Draw 7 - afternoon
Manitoba 7-9 (extra) Canada 1 (Austgarden)
Richmond  6-10  Canada II (Armstrong)
Victoria  0-7 (6 ends) Great Britain
Scotland 4-9  Alberta

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Richmond International - Day 2

At the end of the second day of the Richmond International Cashspiel, Jim Armstrong's Canada II is tied with Richmond, Great Britain and Alberta at 3-1, with Victoria 2-2 and Scotland and Manitoba 1-3. Gerry Ausgarden's Canada I squad has yet to record a win though they posted the second best "draw to the button" score in the "skills" element yesterday.

Draw 4 - morning
Canada II (Armstrong) 13-0 Scotland
Victoria  8-2  Canada I (Austgarden)
Alberta  10-4  Manitoba
Great Britain 10-1  Richmond

Draw 5 - afternoon
Great Britain 9-5  Canada II (Armstrong)
Alberta 10-4  Canada I  (Austgarden)
Manitoba  2-6  Scotland
Victoria 5-9 Richmond

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Richmond International - Day 1

Consistent with the coaches' insistence that no decision has yet been made about which of the eight squad members competing in Richmond will become Team Canada 2009, Canada I is being skipped by Gerry Austgarden while Jim Armstrong skips Canada II.

In the morning draw Great Britain beat Austgarden 8-4, while Armstrong beat Alberta 12-3. It took Manitoba an extra end to defeat Victoria 8-6, and Richmond beat Scotland 6-5.

In the afternoon Armstrong beat Austgarden 11-6, Richmond beat Manitoba 7-6, Victoria beat Scotland 10-4 and Alberta beat Great Britain 9-5.

Draw 3 was a short session "skills" competition. Each team member drew to the button with the cumulative distance from the button determining the winner: Austgarden (156") over Richmond (291"), Manitoba (262") over Armstrong (283"), Alberta (143") beat Victoria (213") and Great Britain (230") beat Scotland (279").

Canada I

Great Britain


Gerry Austgarden Michael McCreadie Jack Smart Dennis Thiesen
Gary Cormack Aileen Neilson Anne Hibberd Michael Alberg
Chris Sobkowicz Tom Killin Jackie Roy Arlene Ursel
Sonja Gaudet James Sellar Bridget Wilson Terry Lindell
Tony Zummack

Canada II



Jim Armstrong Michael McKenzie Bob Macdonald Mark Wherrett
Darryl Neighbour Rosemary Lenton Rich Green Bill Lindstrom
Bruno Yizek Gregor Ewan Vince Miele Roy Crawford
Ina Forrest Gillian Keith Samantha Sui Corinne Jensen
Tom Parker

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

2nd Annual Richmond (BC) International begins Dec 10

Team Canada will face the British Paralympic squad during the four day Richmond (BC) International starting tomorrow. With the delayed announcement of which five players will become Team Canada 2009, this event will be a last chance for the eight person training squad to impress the coaches.

Canada last faced the Brits in October at a spiel in Kinross, Scotland which ended in a Canada/Canada final.

Completing the eight team field in Richmond are teams from Alberta, Manitoba and two local club sides.

Monday, December 8, 2008

USA announces team for 2009 Worlds and Vancouver 2010

To no great surprise the on-ice curlers who won America's first medal at the World level last March, have been chosen to represent their country at the 2009 Worlds, and pending approval by the US Olympics Committee, the 2010 Paralympics.

The team of skip Augusto (Goose) Perez, James Pierce, Jimmy Joseph and Jackie Kapinowski came through a three stage assessment that began with a formal try-out, and continued over spiels in Ottawa and Utica.

Newcomer Patrick McDonald, who had been skipping USA II, joins thee team as the sole west coast representative. CLICK HERE for more information.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

USA 1 need extra end but win U.S. Open

Augusto Perez avenged a round robin defeat by Bradford, Ontario's Ken Gregory in the first semi-final of the 2nd Annual U.S. Open in Utica, NY today, but he needed an extra end to prevail 7-6 in 9 ends. Bruce Cameron's Ottawa team beat Great Britain I by 9-5 in the other semi.

In the final USA I beat Cameron 7-2 for the gold medal, with Gregory beating Great Britain 1 for bronze.

Great Britain now travel to British Columbia to compete in the 8 team Richmond International against Team Canada, Alberta, Manitoba and two BC club sides. GB, which is essentially a Scottish squad, have struggled for some time after finishing tied for last place at the 2008 Worlds. They still have players with a great deal of experience, and their funding enables them to travel. It will be interesting to see whether they can raise their game in Richmond or will plead continued experimentation in preparation for 2010 to explain what to their fans is a worrying lack of success. At some point a team has to prove to themselves they can win, and the Scots may be leaving it a little late.

U.S. Open - Day 2

Day 2 of the 2nd Annual U.S. Open saw 3 draws, with USA I suffering their first defeat, and Bruce Cameron's Ottawa team seeding #2 in Sunday's playoff.

Draw 3 results
Cameron 4-8 Gregory

Draw 4 results
GB I 7-2 GB II
USA II 3-7 Cameron
USA I 7-9 Gregory

Draw 5 results
GB I 4-7 Cameron
GB II 7-7 Gregory

Friday, December 5, 2008

U.S. Open begins in Utica NY

The 2nd annual U.S. Open, featuring the Great Britain Paralympic squad, began today at the Utica Curling Club, NY. Both US teams posted two wins in the opening draws.

Draw 1 results
USA I 11-2 GB I
USA II 11-3 Gregory (Bradford ON)
Cameron (Ottawa ON) 9-4 GB II

Draw 2 results
USA I 7-5 Cameron
GB I 7-6 Gregory

USA I - Perez, Pierce, Joseph, Kapinowski
USA II - McDonald, Heathcoat, Dorsett, Delano
Ottawa - Cameron, Morris, Eddy, Lavallee
Bradford - Gregiry, Cannerella, Joseph, Palalunga
GB I - Neilson, McCreadie. Ewan, Keith
GB II - Sellar, Killin, Lenton, McKenzie

Canada, played in Ottawa last weekend and will play in Richmond BC next week so did not attend this event, which Great Britain won last year.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

CCA ad from the 2008/9 issue of Extra End

Team Canada announcement delayed

The announcement of the members of Team Canada 2009 has been delayed until Saturday December 13th, at the banquet at the Richmond International spiel, as happened last year.

The eight squad members had been told that they would know today, and the reason for the delay is unclear. Possibly Joe Rea, who did not travel to Ottawa for the Cathy Kerr, needed additional time to see them play. Or it might have been felt that announcing the team before Richmond would adversely affect the performance of those not chosen. Whatever the reason, as of today the proposed line-ups in Richmond are:

Armstrong, Neighbour, Forrest, Yitzek
Austgarden, Cormack, Sobkowicz, Gaudet
It should be noted that the proposed line-ups changed shortly before the Ottawa event.

This does, however, allow more time for those yet to cast their ballot for Team Canada 2009. Please do so in the comments section in the post below this one.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Who do you pick for Team Canada 2009?

The members of Team Canada 2009 will be announced Saturday December 9th. The candidates in alphabetical order are:

Jim Armstrong, Gerry Austgarden, Gary Cormack, Ina Forrest, Sonja Gaudet, Darryl Neighbour, Chris Sobkowicz, Bruno Yizek

Who do you think will make the team - Skip through lead, plus alternate?

GB begin North American tour at US Open in Utica Dec 5-7

The Great Britain Paralympic squad will begin their North American tour at the 2nd US Open in Utica this weekend. Two British team will compete against the two US teams that played last weekend in Ottawa. Two Ontario teams, Cameron from Ottawa and Gregory from Bradford round out the six team field.

The Brits then travel to BC and will face Team Canada 2009, who are to be selected tomorrow (December 4th), at the Richmond International spiel starting December 9th.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Quebec to compete at 2009 Canadian Nationals

Quebec wheelchair curlers, based at the Lennoxville CC in Sherbrooke, learned today that their winning participation in the recreational division of the Cathy Kerr in Ottawa has led to sponsorship for a trip to the 2009 Canadian Nationals.

Club member Al Whittier, who has been the force behind the program, was delighted. "We were all inspired by seeing the Ottawa ice-sheets full of wheelchairs," he said when he phoned us the news. "And we already have a woman who drove to Ottawa to watch what was happening, and who will coming out to a practice. We need female curlers and she asked about training."

This brings up a point that I have been making for several years. If curling wants to attract committed athletes there must be answers to intelligent questions, like what will be my time commitment to excel, what coaching is available, and what is my path to representative competition.

As far as I know there is still no "Path To Excellence" type brochure that lays out the support serious athletes will expect from a sport attempting to get them to commit their time and energy.