Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Armstrong trial put back to October 25th

At yesterday's status update hearing before Judge Martinez in the case of USA v. James Armstrong and Gregory Armstrong, the prosecution requested a continuance until October 25th.

While there may be further delays, a jury trial is presently scheduled for that date. Background to the case can be found in a previous post HERE.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Armstrong court case update

US government prosecutors and Team Canada skip Jim Armstrong and his son Gregory will appear in a Seattle courtroom at 10am tomorrow (Monday August 30) for a Status Conference/Hearing before US District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez. The conference is scheduled for 30 minutes.

Background to the case can be found in a previous post HERE and a link to the judge's schedule is HERE.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wheelchair curling? Let's scrap it and start over.

If the WCF were structuring wheelchair curling from scratch, using the experience of the past ten years, the sport would, or perhaps more personally, should look very different. It really doesn't convert from the able-bodied game with any authenticity. Lack of sweeping not only removes a major purpose of the four person team format, but reduces the range of available shots and the possibility for shot accuracy that viewers of regular curling expect.

While shot clocks and time constraints have helped, two and a half hour 8 end games are still lengthy investments in a sport rarely achieving 60% accuracy. Of course, coaches continue to hope that with more and better practice, throwing skills will increase, and at every tournament brave words are spoken at microphones, praising the skill of the competitors as we spectators remember the shots that succeed while quickly forgetting the underthrows and overthrows.

It is my feeling that accuracy levels have plateaued for the best wheelchair curlers, at a point far below what can be achieved when using brooms.

Wheelchair curling in Canada is in a difficult place. It has failed to capture the imagination of wheelchair users, perhaps because for many there is just too much on-ice down time. The sport is driven by the perceived requirement to field a competitive national team, forcing inappropriate 4 person mixed gender teams that stifle growth while coaches pretend that performance will continue to improve given time.

The national team is run as a private club with no public or plausible pathway to membership for anyone outside of the small group of Western Canadians presently serviced with money and coaching to win medals.

But that offers an opportunity for the rest of Canada to ignore a system that ignores them, and start a sport that answers many of the present system's failings.

Redefine wheelchair curling as a two person a team sport, where you are either throwing or skipping, and not sitting around pretending your stopwatch is supplying useful information.

Decide who can play. Should it be just full-time wheelchair users, or people who could not otherwise curl without a wheelchair, or anyone sitting in a wheelchair? Avoid the eligibility voodoo and counting of angels on pin heads that Kate Caithness presented to such a sceptical if not hostile reception at the WCF's Meeting last Spring. You either need a wheelchair always, or always on the ice, or not at all.

Ignore the still developing "stick curling" rules which inexplicably allow some sweeping. Keep the "one end throwing, one end skipping" format.

Then decide whether to stay with 8 rocks an end, or 6, or 6 with two rocks pre-placed by the house or some other combination that holds games to around an hour. Four wheelchair curlers could play a 3 game round robin in not much more time than one game of 4 person team curling.

Then come up with a bracing solution for the throwers. Opponents could brace, but able-bodied volunteer rock wranglers might be needed.

Then reduce the length of the sheet for every second under 14 that it takes a T-line line draw to travel between the hoglines. If it takes a 10 second heave to reach the T-line, the game is corrupted. You can't change the ice; you can change the throwing position to compensate.

And finally when time clocks are available, set a time limit, and penalise a point for every minute used over the limit.

Perhaps I am dreaming, but the present system seems a dead end, designed and run for unnecessarily narrow ends. It excludes all but a pampered few, pays no attention to the development of the sport across Canada and offers no opportunity for outside influence.

If the national program exists outside of the sponsorship of provincial associations, they should feel no obligation participate in it.

Had the people who initially decided to create the sport had the opportunity to see how their initiative has been drowned by a national thirst for international medals, they might have made different decisions.

What we need is a sport that answers the desire for winter recreation for wheelchair users. Wheelchair curling as presently defined fails, so needs to change.

What do you think?

For those uninterested in change, or sceptical about its prospects, I'll have some ideas on how to improve individual performance in the next column.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The secret to success in curling

Curling's secret unveiled

Want to know the secret of success in curling? It's not all about how hard you kick it, how fast you run and then how good you are at tackling: it's all about .......    (find out at this video)

What's happening in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is holding a Give-It-A-Go day at the Lakeshore Curling Club on October 3rd from 10 till 2. First timers or those with limited experience are welcome. Wheelchair curling is a mixed sport with both males and females participating.

They are also looking for volunteers to assist at the weekly Saturday afternoon curling sessions at the Sackville Sports Stadium on Glendale Avenue in Lower Sackville.

To register or just to get more information call, Laughie Rutt at 864-2737 in the evenings or Lakeshore Curling Club at 869-CURL. Please feel free to leave a message. You can email laughierutt@eastlink.ca.

Chester CC is holding similar sessions on October 17, 24, 31 and November 14, 2010 from 11am-1pm For information on this clinic, please contact Trendal Hubley Bolivar at Hubley-Bolivar@hotmail.com.

 The latest news about wheelchair curling in Nova Scotia can be found on issue 2 of Nova Scotia's newsletter.

Curling Quebec recognises Al Whittier as Club Coach Of The Year

Dan Janidlo and Al Whittier - Lennooxville CC, Quebec

Al Whittier, the driving force in establishing Quebec's first wheelchair curling program at the Lennoxville CC, has been named Club Coach Of The Year by Curling Quebec.

Here is the citation in French, and below is a Google translation.

Le comité de sélection souhaite encourager et soutenir l’initiative de monsieur Alfred Whittier, du club de curling de Lennoxville. Au printemps 2008, monsieur a présenté, pour la première fois, le curling à des athlètes handicapés. Ce ne fut pas sans obstacle et avec l’appui de plusieurs partenaires, monsieur Whittier et son équipe a su rendre ce sport accessible en adaptant les installations du club pour ses athlètes. Ceux-ci ont d’ailleurs participé à deux championnats canadiens de curling pour athlètes en fauteuil roulant. Avec l’aide de son collègue Daniel Janidlo, le programme a grandi et les athlètes participent désormais à des évènements locaux. En 2009, monsieur Whittier a d’ailleurs remporté le Donald Patrick Award de la ville de Lennoxville pour son travail avec les athlètes handicapés.

The selection committee wants to encourage and support the initiative of Mr. Alfred Whittier, of the Lennoxville Curling Club. In spring 2008, Mr. Whittier presented for the first time, curling to athletes with disabilities. It was not without obstacles but with the support of several partners, Mr. Whittier and his team managed to make the sport accessible by adapting the club facilities for its athletes. They have also participated in two national wheelchair curling championships. With the help of his colleague Daniel Janidlo, the program has grown and athletes now participate in local events. In 2009, Mr. Whittier won the Donald Patrick Award from the City of Lennoxville for his work with disabled athletes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Curling down under gaining momentum

The wheelchair curling program at Melbourne's (Australia) Ice House in the Docklands is going frm strength to strength and organizer Jim Oastler is hoping to add two teams to the regular Monday evening league. The facility has ice all year round, so play will continue through the coming summer for the first time in Australia.

Friday December 3rd marks the International Day of People with a Disability and Melbourne will be hosting their 2010 Disability Sport and Recreation Festival 7am to 2 pm at Federation Square. Jim will be promoting wheelchair curling at the event. Details of the day's activities on this flier.

Does your (Canadian) club need $$$ for access renovations?

The Federal Government has an "Enabling Access" program where grants of up to $75,000 may be awarded to projects aimed at increasing access for the disabled to community resources.

This program issues occasional invitations for proposals and bids must be in bu September 10th.

For information o the scope of the program and how to apply for funding go HERE

Team USA looking for help at Trials

Tryouts for the coming season's Team USA are being held in Green Bay WI from September 23 to 26.

The coaches are looking for 3 volunteers to help with the assessment processes. Previous experience with wheelchair curling is not necessary but the panelists must be able to pay attention to detail, as most of the skills competitions will involve scoring and interpretation of results. A deep knowledge of curling is not essential, but the panelists will need to be able to observe one-on-one competitions and determine if the strategy being used is at least valid.

For more details see THIS LINK on the USA Curling website.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

5th Annual U.S. Open Wheelchair Bonspiel November 12-14

Utica CC in New York is once again hosting the US Open bonspiel. Entries are $300 per 4 person team, with transport to and from Syracuse Airport and to and from the hotel in New Hartford available for $500 a team.

Up to 8 teams will play in a round robin, starting 9.30am Friday Nov 12 and finishing 2.30 pm on Sunday Nov.14.

Full details are HERE. For more information contact Marc Deperno by email or call 315-737-2459

Competition begins in BC at the Osoyoos 2on2 September 11-12

The 4th Annual Olson Curling Supplies 2 on 2 Wheelchair Spiel will be held at the Osoyoos CC the weekend of September 11-12.

New curlers are welcome. This is a fun event in an ideal format for wheelchair users. Team Canada members will participate, and the event hopes to field 8 teams.

Entry details can be seen on the flyer HERE. Registration requested by September 1st. For more information email Gerry Austgarden or call him at 250-979-3030

USA Trials to be held in Green Bay WI, September 24-26

USA Curling is holding a weekend of trials for participation on Team USA, at the Green Bay CC the weekend of September 24-26.

This is an open camp. To register contact Marc Deperno by email or call 315-737-2459.  The Trials will consist of individual skill events, mini games and personal interviews.  Coaches will be evaluating skill, game knowledge and strategy, team dynamics, leadership and potential.

For more information visit the USA Curling Association website.