Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Do you want to curl on the GB Paralympic team?

British curling has been an exclusively Scottish endeavour at the elite level, but attempts are being made to identify the best UK athletes with the proficiency and desire to compete for a place on the GB Paralympic Curling Squad.

A series of events, all at Scottish venues, have been arranged where weight control and accuracy will be assessed. The organisers warn:  this complex system is aimed at elite level athletes and is not for beginners as a “come and try event”.

Applications (deadline October 1st) are available for download HERE and information packs can be obtained from Amber Thomson.

More details on the program and eligibility can be seen HERE.

I found the link on Bob Cowan's Skip Cottage Curling blog, in a post detailing his visit to Sterling's recreational wheelchair curling program. Details and photos HERE.

A letter from Team Cameron (ON)


As you will see by the enclosed cheque for $100, we have responded to the challenge from Team Bradford for teams to match their contribution.

We find to be a very informative site and consider it to be the place to go for information about wheelchair curling.

We also know that it does take a considerable amount of your time, energy and money to maintain the site to the high standard that you have set. At times I am sure that the thought crosses your mind that no one cares about your efforts and Please be assured that we do care and rely on the information that you provide to the wheelchair curling community not only in Canada but throughout the world.

We thank you very much for your time and effort. We will also challenge all wheelchair curling leams world wide to at least match, if not better the contributions from Team Bradford and Team Cameron so we will be able tocontinue to enjoy


Team Cameron

Bruce Cameron
Doug Morris
Jamie Eddy
Christine Lavallee
Wilf Oliver - Coach
Margaret Woodley - Coach

3rd Annual Wetzikon Invitational October 30-31, Zurich SUI

Wetzikon Invitational October 30-31, 2010

Closing date for applications to compete in the 3rd Annual Wetzikon Invitational in Zurich, Switzerland, is October 2nd.

There will be a maximum of 12 teams, playing in two pools, four games guaranteed. Entries are CHF280 (approx. $300 Canadian) and includes the Saturday banquet.

Full event details are available (in German and English) HERE.

Monday, September 27, 2010

No change for Team USA after trials

Team USA 2011 will be represented by the same five athletes that brought them so close to medals at the last Worlds and Vancouver Paralympics.

Augusto 'Goose' Perez (East Syracuse, N.Y.) will skip James Pierce (North Syracuse, N.Y.), Jacqui Kapinowski (Point Pleasant, N.J.), James Joseph (New Hartford, N.Y.) and Patrick McDonald (Orangevale, Calif.). (as in photo above)

Athletes named as alternates for Team USA include Tammy Delano (Rome, N.Y.), Penny Greely (Green Bay, Wis.), Laura Schwanger (Mantua, N.J.) and Bob Prenoveau (Chittenango, N.Y.). The alternates will compete in events and train as Team USA B. [USA Curling press release]

Twelve athletes attended this weekend's open tryouts at the Green Bay CC in Wisconsin. While there is promising talent among those not selected, the downside to working with a small national squad is that they provide a receding target to a newcomer hoping to displace them.

One trialist undaunted by the challenge, was Green Bay native Penny Greely. She told WBAY TV it was the degree of difficulty that drew her more to the game. 

"I'm a really competitive person so this was right up my alley when I started playing. I hope to remain part of the curling club, get on some leagues. And hopefully making the national team some day," she added.

Watch an interview with Penny Greely HERE.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Do's, Don'ts and something to try when you practice

With the season already under-way in Ottawa, here are some things to consider when practising.

Most clubs will have members who are qualified coaches, and who can be asked to help form a practice plan, if not to oversee every practice session. Every wheelchair user with access to curling ice, should also have, if they ask, access to coaching expertise at the club. Much of what makes for good practice with regular curlers, is also good practice for wheelchair curling, so don't allow unfamiliarity with wheelchairs to be a bar to receiving coaching help. The CCA also has a brochure that includes basic information including drills for those new to wheelchair curling. Ask at your club or contact the CCA's Danny Lamoureux to receive a copy.

The three elements to delivering the stone, speed, direction and rotation, are the same for everyone, and rely on consistency. This is why it is important to practice the way you will play. Bad practice is worse than no practice. For example; if you need your chair braced to prevent it moving when you throw, it is useless and probably detrimental to throw on your own. You will find yourself adjusting for the lack of a bracer, and the muscle memory benefits of practice won't be relevant when you compete.

A draw without sweepers will always be a lower percentage shot than a draw with sweepers. Many wheelchair curlers compensate by relying on up-weight throws; hits rather than draws, minimizing the importance of distance and the effect of the curl. There are all sorts of hitting drills, but you might try this "line drill" when you do not have someone to hold the broom.

Place two stones 20 feet away and move them 2 feet apart. Now throw as hard as you can between them. This has the benefit of concentrating not on where the stone finishes, which is the responsibility of the broom holder, but on where the stone needs to be when it starts.

It is difficult for throwers to know without being told, whether an up weight shot started on line. If you can't reliably throw through a 2 foot gap, widen it. Then reduce it as you succeed. Stones are just under a foot in diameter, so set a "gap target" to pass through before the stone starts to curl, and move it across the ice so you throw from different angles.

Finally, club ice-makers try to keep their ice consistent so their members know what to expect. That can mean that depending on the venue, a T-line draw may take anywhere between 11 and 14 seconds to travel the same distance. The weight you need for a given shot can vary significantly.

This is not an issue if you always and only play on the same surface. You learn how much weight a particular shot needs, and should, with practice, be able to make small adjustments for changing ice conditions during a game. Sweeping makes adjustments easier, but what do you do to learn to "put a bit on" or "take a bit off" to adjust to the very different ice you might meet in competition.

Try reducing or lengthening the distance that you throw when you practice. To simulate fast ice, move closer to the house, over the hogline. To simulate heavy ice, move further back.

Shake-up at Team Manitoba

It will come as no surprise to anyone who watched Manitoba play last March in Kelowna, BC, that the team has split up after three successive national championship bronze medals. They did not look happy on or off the ice.

This season Chris Sobkowicz and third Dennis Thiessen will each skip a team and compete against each other in the Manitoba playdown.

Chris will play with 2010 teammates George Horning and Terry Lindell and has been practicing at Winnipeg's Assiniboine CC with several players who may make the team.

Dennis Thiessen will reconnect with Michael Alberg, a teammate on the 2008 and 2009 Manitoba team, along with Effie Loubardias and a newcomer to wheelchair curling, Heather Mowat. They will play out of the East St. Paul CC in Winnipeg and compete at the 6th Annual Cathy Kerr Memorial the third week in November.

Effie Loubardias, Dennis Thiessen, Michael Alberg and Heather Mowat.

It is encouraging that there are enough participants in Manitoba that teams can reform. Expectations are that three teams will compete in the 2011 provincials. No word as to whether long-time provincial lead Arlene Ursel will play this year.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chris Daw inducted to London (ON) Hall Of Fame

Team Canada skip Daw, 40, who won three national wheelchair curling titles, silver and bronze at the Worlds and a gold medal at the Turin Paralympics, has been inducted into the London, Ontario, Hall Of Fame.

He attended the Western Fair ceremony with his wife Morgan and their infant daughter Arouyn.

“This is the culmination of everything,” he told Steve Green of the London Free Press. “The day it was announced that I was being inducted, I called my mom (Eleanor). The very next day, she passed away.

“Throughout my entire career, she and my father were my greatest supporters and my greatest advocates. This means just as much as Turin because not only is it the recognition of my achievements, it’s the recognition of their support.”

The London Hall Of Fame video citation can be viewed at this link or seen below.

Ottawa's RA Curling Club's curling begins this Saturday 25th

Bruce Cameron writes to say that wheelchair curling will be starting at the RA Curling Club in Ottawa this Saturday, September 25th, 3 - 5 pm.

All wheelchair users are welcome. No previous experience necessary. Yearly memberships are $10, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Ontario Champions Team Cameron will be on hand for a meet-and-greet on Saturday 2nd Oct 2010, and will give a demonstration before being presented the Team Ontario provincial banner they won at last season's Dominion Provincial Championship.

Team USA tryouts in Green Bay, WI this weekend

Twelve athletes will be attending the Team USA tryouts this weekend in Green Bay WI, including all five members of the team that finished fourth at the 2009 Worlds and the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics.

Making the Team - The 2011 U.S. Wheelchair Curling Team Selection will take place Friday through Sunday at the Green Bay (Wis.) Curling Club. The individual skills tryouts will help select the national team for the season to compete in various international and national competitions as well as wear Team USA at the 2011 Wheelchair World Championship in March in the Czech Republic. Twelve athletes are competing to be named to the roster, including all five members of Team USA's wheelchair curling team from the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.

From USACurling

Mike Fitzgerald is CCA's Male Athlete of the Week

Mike Fitzgerald (2009) skip Team Nova Scotia
(photo - Ian Readey)
[from the CCA profile]  Michael Fitzgerald has built himself quite a resume, both on and off the ice.

On the ice, he’s been a dominant force in Nova Scotia wheelchair curling; he’s claimed the last three provincial titles and has represented the Bluenose Province at the last three national championships, in 2008 at Winnipeg (3-4 record), 2009 at Halifax (3-6 record) and 2010 in Kelowna, B.C. (4-5 record, just out of the playoffs).

As well, Fitzgerald has worked behind the scenes to help wheelchair curling; he’s a Level 1 coach specializing in the wheelchair discipline, and has instructed many new wheelchair curlers in Atlantic Canada. Add to that his upcoming duties, volunteering at the 2011 Canada Winter Games (he’ll be an accessibility representative at the Mayflower Curling Club, which will host the curling competition) and you get the picture about Fitzgerald’s commitment to the Roaring Game.

Read the full profile.

Lethbridge AB invites wheelchair users to curl

Wheelchair users in Lethbridge AB will have the opportunity to curl this season in a program promoted by the Alberta Health Service as part of its theraputic recreation initiative to keep wheelchair users active during the winter.

To find out more about the program, or to volunteer to coach, contact Community Recreation Therapist Carolyn Matthews at 403.388.6348

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Team Sweden, Vancouver bronze medalists, break up

Team Sweden, winners of the bronze medal at the Vancouver Paralympics, are breaking up.

Swedish skip Jalle Jungnell writes:

"After playing with Glenn Ikonen and Anette Wilhelm for 10 years at international level, the time has come to quit. Anette wants more time for her two young children, and I have still not recovered from last December's spine surgery.

"After our silver medal at the 2009 Worlds, we had high hopes for a repeat of the result in Vancouver, or even better. Things where looking really good during the fall, with a new coach (Tomas Nordin) and good results, with a win in Switzerland.

"Then I suddenly start losing strength and feeling in my hands, and was rushed to emergency surgery, and was hospitalized in Denver for a month. I returned to the ice only 4 weeks before Vancouver, and 10 weeks practicing without a skip didn’t do the team any good.

"We recovered from an 0-3 start to win 7 of the last 9 games and take bronze. Any medal in the Paralympics is big, and we were happy, but there were mixed feelings. This journey includes so much pain and struggle that we all felt pretty exhausted - happy with the result, but definitely not with our performance.

"A couple of bronze and a silver in my career is fun, but the highlight of my curling is definitely all the nice people we have met through the years. The spirit and friendship between nations is just exceptional. I’ll miss all Mikaels, Sonjas, Runes and Nadias, and so many, many more."

Lead and 2009 sportsmanship award winner Anette Wilhelm added: "It was a difficult and somewhat sad decision to take, but all things come to and end."

Jalle has retired before, and is still young enough to make another come-back, though back pain and neurological problems with his hands persists. He would like to return "and show everyone that Sweden can play" but acknowledges his health is not good enough, at least at present.

His retirement is a big loss not only to Sweden but to the game internationally. Jalle realised that his job was not just as an athlete, but also an ambassador for the sport. He did not hide himself away as did the Canadians and Scots and many others during the 2009 Worlds where I met him, and was happy to talk wheelchair curling to anyone interested.
Team Sweden's future is now in doubt, as would any program that relied on a tiny core group of players year after year. Glenn Ikonen's 6-month suspension for using a banned blood pressure medication, ends September 22nd but he does not have a team. 

If Sweden do not compete at the Worlds in Prague, three teams will qualify from the upcoming World's Qualifying Tournament.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Marcus Sieger replaces Jens Jäger as skip of Team Germany

new Team Germany skip Marcus Sieger

Jens Jäger, who skipped Germany to a bronze medal at the 2009 Wolds, and also skipped at the Vancouver Paralympics, is out of the national team. He has been replaced by his 3rd, Marcus Stieger.

The new Team Germany, who will compete at the 2011 Worlds in Prague, is  Marcus Sieger (Skip), Jens Gäbel, Christiane Steger and newcomer Stefan Deuschl. Helmar Erlewein continues as national team coach.

Jens has a new team, the Mainhattan Ice Wheelers, who competed in last weekend's Danish international spiel at Taarnby, finishing fourth.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sports Day in Canada September 18

Canadians are invited to experience first-hand various Paralympic sports during hands-on sport demonstrations in Ottawa (ON) and Richmond (BC) on the first-ever Sports Day in Canada, September 18.

Paralympians Chris Daw and Darryl Neighbour will be among those attending the Richmond Oval in BC from 11 - 2, and there will also be an Ottawa event at Lansdowne Park, Ottawa.

Read the Canadian Paralympic Committee's media release HERE.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Per Christensen back as Denmark's Coach as Norway take season opener

Per Christensen back as Danish National Coach

The 4th Annual Danske Internationale Kørestole Curling Cup 2010 was held this past weekend at the Taarnby Curling Club. Teams from host Denmark, Finland, Czech Republic, Germany, Russia and two teams from Norway competed.

German Paralympic team skip Jens Jager is no longer part of the German national team, but brought a new team, the "Mainhattan Ice-Wheelers" made up of players from Frankfurt and Schwenningen. Norway split their Paralympic squad with Rune Lorentsen and Geir Arne Skogstad skipping.

Rune's Norway 1 went unbeaten to win the tournament, with Denmark 2nd and Finland 3rd.

Full results and line scores are HERE.

Per Christensen, a Dane who took over from Thoralf Hognestad as coach of Norway for the Paralympics before handing the team back to Thoralf after Vancouver, is back as coach of the Danish national side.

"After a long down period for the Danish team, it seems that they are on their way up," Per told me. Denmark had failed to qualify for the Worlds in 2008 and 2009.

"I think that it has been an advantage for them to have the break," he added. "We used the tournament as practice for the World Champoinship Qualification Tournament in Lohja Finland, November 6-12."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Kinross WCC holding a "come and try" session September 25

The Kinross Wheelchair Curling Club, formed in 2001, is holding a "come and try" session at 12.15pm  on Saturday September 25 at The Green Hotel, Kinross (SCO). No experience necessary.

The club has 15  curlers competing in league play, and a full schedule of events. Their fundraising Ceilidh at the Windlstrae Hotel brought in 100 people and raised almost a thousand pounds.

More information about the club can be found at their website.

Two national champs pair up to win Osoyoos 2 on 2

Vince Miele and Gary Cormack
Gary Cormack and Vince Miele, continuing the form that saw them win a national title last March, won the 4th Annual Olsen Curling Supplies Osoyoos 2 on 2. They beat fellow teammate Rich Green and Team Canada member Bruno Yizek  7-4 in the final of the two day event to win cash, and a curling jacket and pants.
 Bruno Yizek and Rich Green

Team Canada members Darryl Neighbour and Sonja Gaudet finished 3rd in the five team field.
 Darryl Neighbour and Sonja Gaudet

Saturday, September 11, 2010

UK to offer Introduction to Coaching Wheelchair Curling course

The Royal Caledonian CC, the national governing body for British curling, is offering a 3-4 hour course for current RCCC qualified coaches, intended to introduce them to the sport and enable them to instruct a beginner who uses a wheelchair.

The course will cover delivery styles, safety awareness and include the coach using a wheelchair during the course and thus "gaining valuable insights into the perspective of a wheelchair user."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Team Quebec players and their coach part ways

The members of Team Quebec and the coaches who have been instrumental in establishing wheelchair curling in their province, have parted ways.

The team has been centred at the Lennoxville CC under the guidance of Quebec's Club Coach of the Year Al Whittier and Dan Janidlo. Tension arose when skip Ben Lessard, 3rd Carl Marquis and 2nd Denis Grenier chose to leave the 2010 Nationals in Kelowna before the banquet, without prior discussion of their decision with their coaches. Although this breach of protocol fractured the coaching relationship, it did not result in CCA imposed sanctions, though rules for 2011 are likely to make banquet attendance mandatory.

Magog CC coach Germain Tremblay has agreed to work with the team on a part-time basis whenever his schedule permits.

Carl will practice at the Magog Club which is closer to his home, while Ben will continue to play at Lennoxville. They are likely to be joined by newcomer Sebastien Boisvert, described as a "natural" by a coach who saw him play at the Cape Cod Summerspiel. Lead Johanne Daly lives some distance away in Montreal.

The team plans to compete at the Cathy Kerr in Ottawa and the US Open in Utica NY, and are hoping that funds can be found for travel to the Richmond BC International in December.

Al Whittier will continue to promote recreational wheelchair curling at Lennoxville. Dan Janidlo will maintain his Lennoxville connections, but will also be checking for wheelchair access at clubs closer to his new home in Montreal

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Canada's emphasis shifts from international competition to national athlete development

Sometimes no news is good news, and sometimes no news means that everyone is holding their breath and hoping not to be crushed when the elephant sits down.

With skip Jim Armstrong awaiting trial, presently scheduled for October 25 in US District Court in Seattle, for trafficking counterfeit pills, there has been no Team Canada activity over the summer.

After a four year campaign ending in gold medals at the 2009 Worlds and 2010 Paralympics, there was always going to be a slower pace to this season as plans are made for the next quadrennial, with a switch of emphasis from international competition, to encouraging domestic competition.

While Joe Rea remains national team coach, Wendy Morgan has been appointed National Program Manager for wheelchair curling. This will entail working with each province's designated wheelchair curling coordinators. I am assured that each province has such a person and I will publish their names as soon as I have them.

The CCA's involvement in wheelchair curling will continue to be split between the Discover Curling Program run by Danny Lamoureux and responsible for grassroots development, and "long term athlete development" which will be assisted by the national coaching staff and national program athletes.

While there is an argument that this separation is artificial and obstructive of grassroots development, it fits the existing determination of CCA staff to keep national team membership and training under their close control.

Wendy Morgan says: "The current National Team will train independently and attend a couple of training camps  (TBD).  They will compete in the Richmond Invitational in December. (ed. December 1-4 - entry deadline September 30)

It is likely that a group core of athletes from the current National Team will represent Canada at the World championships in Prague in 2011."

There will, however, be a nation-wide series of "Talent ID/Development Camps with the intention to recruit talented/promising wheelchair athletes to the National Team Program while making a positive contribution to local wheelchair curling programs."

What that means for ambitious curlers outside of the present program, is that either by winning your provincial championship, or by gaining the sponsorship of your provincial coordinator, you will have the opportunity to at least make yourself known to national coaching staff.

A provisional list of potential venues includes St. John's NFLD, Halifax, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg/Regina, Calgary, Richmond and Whitehorse.

Norway's Thoralf Hognestad returns as national team coach

Thoralf Hognestad took charge of Team Norway after the Torino Paralympics, and led them to back to back world Championships in 2007 and 2008. Work commitments after the 2009 season prevented him from leading the team at the Vancouver Paralympics. Per Christensen, previously coach of his Danish national team, took over but failed to improve on the previous year's disappointing performance.

This season Thoralf is back with an increased squad and a full schedule of early season competition.

"We have some exciting new players who I hope will be challenging for team places when we choose the team for the Worlds," he told me.

One change that he doesn't expect to make is at skip, where Rune Lorentsen has had a couple of difficult years.

"Rune has his confidence back," says Hognestad. If that's true, it's bad news for the rest of the world.

Norway will be taking two teams to Denmark this coming weekend, and then are scheduled to travel to Inverness in Scotland in October, and Berne, Switzerland, in November. They'll also be competing in regular local bonspiels.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Michael McCreadie leaving national team

Team Great Britain skip Michael McCreadie was a notable absentee from the list of individual athletes selected to the British Wheelchair Curling Squad for Season 2010 - 2011.  Gregor Ewan, Jim Gault and Michael McKenzie join recent team members Tom Killin, Rosemary Lenton, Angie Malone, Aileen Neilson and Jim Sellar.

There was no mention whether Tom Pendreigh remains as coach.

Bob Cowan reports Michael saying, "I have decided to take a season out of international competition and re-assess next season."

Expectations of success are as high in Scotland as in Canada. Michael was unable to repeat, as leader of the generously sponsored program, the success he enjoyed as vice to Frank Duffy, and admits the pressure of the past couple of years affected his enjoyment of the sport. Read Bob's report HERE.

Osoyoos 2 on 2 spiel begins Saturday September 11

The 4th Annual Olsen Curling Supplies 2 on 2 Bonspiel will begin at 9 am Saturday, September 11 at the Osoyoos CC just north of the BC/Washington State border.

Team Canada members Sonja Gaudet, Darrryl Neighbour and Bruno Yizek will be playing, with Team BC members Gerry Austgarden, Frank LaBounty and Alison Duffy, national champion skip Gary Cormack with his team members Rich Green and Vince Miele.

There's an odd number of teams registered, so a last minute arrival would not be unwelcome. Give Gerry a call at 250-979-3030 (work) or 250 768-0751 (home).