Sunday, October 31, 2010

Katsuo Ichikawa's Team Japan wins Wetzikon (SUI) International

Finalists Japan and Mainhattan Ice Wheelers
Mainhattan (red) Heike Melchior, Frank Tampe, Martin Schlitt, Jens Jäger (Skip)
Japan (white) Ayako Saito, Yogi Nakajima, Kazuyuki Mochiki, Awi Ogawa, Katsuo Ichikawa

Twelve teams competed at the 3rd Annual Wetzikon International this weekend in what for Japan, Switzerland, France and Italy was a warm-up for the World Qualifying Tournament in Lohja, Finland from November 7-12, 2010.

Deposed Team Germany skip Jens Jäger, who brought two 'Mainhattan Ice Wheelers' teams to Switzerland, was top of Group A, and faced Group B winners Team Japan skipped by Katsuo Ichikawa, in the final, losing 8 - 1.

The Zurich Caledonian Pipe Band led by Ruedi Attinger played at the closing ceremonies, rounding off a very successful tournament that will be repeated October 29-30, 2011.

The full scoreboard and teams members can be found HERE

Final Ranking - Team and skip

1.     JWCA Japan / Katsuo Ichikawa
2.     M. Ice Wheelers 1 / Jens Jäger
3.     Team Italia / Andrea Tabanelli
4.     Team Wetzikon 1 / Ivo Hasler
5.     Limmattal / Max Brunner
6.     Team Swiss / Manfred Bolliger
7.     RC Beider Basel 1 / Fredy Borner
8.     roll'in stones Strasbourg (Team France) / Andre Jouvent
9.     GS Periscopio / Paolo Ioriatti
10.     M. Ice Wheelers 2 / Caren Totzauer
11.     SPORT DI PIU / Nicola Gaeta
12.     CC Lausanne Olymp /Didier Recordon

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Full house for 6th Annual Cathy Kerr Memorial Bonspiel

A full slate of 10 competitive and at least 5 recreational teams will be appearing for the 6th Annual Cathy Kerr Memorial Bonspiel at the RA Curling Club in Ottawa, November 19-21, making it the largest wheelchair curling competition in the world.

They are competing for $1,400 prize money. The competitive teams, playing in two divisions of five and guaranteed six games are: USA 1 and 2, plus teams from Newfoundland, Quebec and Manitoba, and the five Ontario teams that competed for their provincial championship last season - Cameron, Fraser, Rees, Bradford and Ilderton.

Dennis Thiessen, long-time 3rd to Chris Sobkowicz, is skipping his own Manitoba team. Jim Primavera joins Team Bradford, replacing Katie Paialunga who is taking a sabbatical from full time competitive curling.  Jim was one of the group of Ontarians chosen to form the original Canadian national team, and has returned from a three year retirement to play with Ken Gregory.

For Team Bradford, Debra Karbashewski replaces coach Dennis Moulding, and will share duties with Carl Rennick.

Team Fraser has lost the services of Deb Shestalo this year due to medical issues. She has been replaced by Stephan Tom as the alternate.

At least 5 teams are expected to play in the recreational division. Former Team Quebec coach Al Whittier is bringing a team from his Lennoxville club, with other teams made up from members of the Capital Wheelchair Curling Club.

Double gold medalist Sonja Gaudet to host demo in PEI

Sonja Gaudet, Canada's double gold medalist, will be traveling across the country to host a demonstration and instruction session at the Silver Fox CC in Summerside PEI.

The session will be held on Sunday November 21, from 1.30 to 4.30. Wheelchair users, potential coaches and helpers, family and friends are all welcome. Contact Gayle Johnston at 902-368-1071 for more information. You can download the event poster HERE.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rainey and Douglas win S. Lanarkshire Pairs

Gordon Rainey and Brian Douglas with sponsor John Bell
photo courtesy of Paul Webster]

Gordon Rainey and Brian Douglas won the inaugural South Lanarkshire Wheelchair Curling Pairs competition, sponsored by Bell's Meat Pies. John Bell was on hand to present to present the trophy in what is hoped will become an annual fixture.

The event was reported by Bob Cowan who reminds me that the Star Refrigeration National Pairs Championship takes place this weekend, October 29-31, at Braehead. Twenty-one teams are taking part, playing in four sections. The teams and the draw are here. Play begins on Friday at 5.30 pm.

The top team from each section qualifies for the high road semifinals at 12.45 pm on Sunday, with the final of the national championship scheduled for 2.30 pm. Second placed teams in each section play in a low road.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

WCF drops "wheelchair users only" eligibility criterion

At the World Curling Association's meeting in Cortina at the end of last season, a detailed document was presented covering classification rules for wheelchair curling. One of the deficiences it addressed was the absence of any procedure to appeal a decision by an authorised classifier to grant or refuse eligibility.

The document was referred back for further study and became official WCF policy in June.

A major change was to redefine wheelchair curling from a sport just for participants requiring a wheelchair for their daily mobility, to one that includes people with significant demonstrable impairments in leg/gait function - whether or not they use a wheelchair in their day to day lives.

This is a big step towards making the sport available to anyone unable to curl without a wheelchair.

Curlers currently classified as eligible under the old rules will not have to reclassify and there can be no appeal of a classification 24 hours after an athlete has appeared in a WCF sanctioned event. There are detailed procedures for appeals by athletes declared ineligible to play.

You can read the Classification Rules For Wheelchair Curling here.

Should wheelchair curling remain a sport reserved for full-time wheelchair users? Or should it be a sport for those unable to curl without a wheelchair? Add your opinion to the comments.

Team Cameron get their banner

2010 Ontario Provincial Champions Team Cameron
Bruce Cameron, Doug Morris, Wilfred Oliver (back), Jamie Eddy, Christine Lavallee, Andre Beaudin

Ian McGillis from the Ontario Curling Association presented Team Cameron with their provincial banner earlier this month. 

Armstrong plea agreements

Last Thursday Jim Armstrong and his son Gregory signed agreements with the United States Attorney stating that they would plead guilty to distribution of fake Viagra and Cialis with intent to mislead or defraud.

Their separate Plea Agreements can be viewed HERE. They are publicly filed and are a matter of public record.

Each agreement is part of a "package plea agreement." This means that if either person withdraws their guilty plea, the "United States will withdraw from both Plea Agreements and will seek an indictment against both parties for all such crimes for which the United States has sufficient evidence."

The agreements detail what Jim and Gregory have admitted doing, the range of penalties, and the possible immigration implications, among other things.

They also state that Jim and Gregory each "entered into this Plea Agreement freely and voluntarily and that no threats or promises. other than the promises contained in the Plea Agreement, were made to induce (them) to enter this plea of guilty."

Monday, October 25, 2010

News report suggests reason behind Armstrong's guilty plea

A report in today's Richmond News suggests that Jim Armstrong pled guilty to charges of distributing fake erectile dysfunction pills with intent to mislead or defraud, because it was a condition of his son Gregory receiving a plea agreement.

Reporter Alan Campbell writes: When contacted this week by the News, Armstrong declined to comment on the guilty plea until after the sentence is passed down in January.

Armstrong did indicate, however, that the U.S. prosecutor’s offer to reduce the charges against his son, Gregory, was conditional on Jim also pleading guilty.

This fits with an opinion expressed to me by Gerry Peckham that Jim "was put in an impossible situation and virtually had no choice."

The Canadian Curling Association’s chief executive officer, Greg Stremlaw, is quoted by the News as saying he was aware that Armstrong’s plea was struck in terms of his son’s charges.

“All of our athletes have a code of conduct and we’ll have to determine if (the guilty plea) impacts the codes of conduct in terms of the national team program."  

You can read the story HERE

The two separate plea agreements dropped references to trafficking and recommended punishments at the low end of sentencing guidelines in return for guilty pleas and giving up the right to a trial. They are not binding on Judge Martinez, who will issue sentences on January 28th, 2011.

See earlier post and comments from October 21st.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Shotmaking skill is the focus in Scotland and Canada

Michael McCreadie, though taking a break from international competition, remains very much involved in the sport. His latest project is a recently announced Shotmaker Competition, organized through the Scottish Wheelchair Curling Association.

The competition asks curlers to complete a series of drills at different locations, the highest scores to be submitted to the SWCA and a prize awarded for the player with the best cumulative score when adding their best result from each of three venues.

"The idea is to have a fun competition that raises awareness of shot-making that I think will carry over into regular play. If people practice specific shots their skills will improve, and so will their performance in games," Michael assured me.

"At the end of the season, not only will there be a winner, but the twelve best performances will earn an invitation to a Shotmaker event in Kinross."

The competition begins in November. You can read full details of the drills and the thinking behind the competition by downloading the aims, objectives and tests. You can register an interest in entering by filling out this form

Though ambitious curlers will already throw a range of specific shots during practice, charted drills allow coaches to gauge progress and compare athlete performances. That is a large part of the thinking behind the Team Canada booklet just released by coach Wendy Morgan to assist in the talent identification and player development program that will be taking place in venues across Canada this season.

Athletes who think of themselves as national program candidates, will have the opportunity to display their skills by performing a series of drills described in the booklet.

I can see the utility of scored drills in bringing someone who might otherwise be overlooked, to the attention of coaches. And I concede to Michael that anything that encourages structured practice has to be a good thing, if you practice as you play, as I have warned previously. (3rd paragraph)

But I remain sceptical about how useful drill totals are in judging potential game performance. For one thing, players on a four person team have lengthy waits between pairs of throws.

Every coach I have spoken to say their players have an inflated opinion of how accurate they can be in competition. High practice percentages are rarely seen in game situations.

Yes, practice will improve performance and drills can offer a framework that can make practice more disciplined and more efficient. In the context of Michael's shotmaker competiton it can also be more fun.

But I would not weight the on-ice performance element of my team selection on drill scores. I'd want to know how curlers can throw under pressure; perhaps by choosing, unannounced, single shots from a game where the curler is told just before they throw that this shot will become part of their record.

If all shots are charted, no shot is special and if all shots matter, then none matter. Matches are not like that.

Perhaps you'd like to share in the 'comments' how you practice, and what records you keep, and how you can tell whether you are improving as a player.

Team Canada honoured at CPC Gala

Sonja Gaudet, with CPC Board member Josh Vander Vies and Greg Sremlaw
Canadian Paralympic Committee yesterday honoured the Canadian Wheelchair Curling Team with the Best Team Award for winning Canada's second consecutive gold medal in the sport.

"These athletes made the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games a significant moment in Canadian sport history and reaffirmed to the world that Team Canada is a strong competitor," said Henry Storgaard, Chief Executive Officer for the CPC. "I am so pleased we could honour them here today and give them the recognition they deserve for their incredible accomplishments. By their excellence, they have raised the profile of the Paralympic Movement and have inspired a whole nation."

This is the first time CPC has developed its own awards to recognize the athletes at the national level. Sonja Gaudet attended the ceremony and accepted the award on behalf of the team from the CCA's  Chief Executive Officer, Greg Stremlaw.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

2011 Women of Curling - glamour with a purpose

2011 Cover girl Jill Officer

The 2011 Women Of Curling calendar is now on sale with proceeds going to support spinal cord research. The campaign also hopes to raise public awareness of wheelchair curling.

Here, courtesy of The Curling News, are the  2011 Women of Curling:

December 2010: Colleen Jones  NS
January 2011: Ashley Miharija  ON
February: Cheryl Bernard  AB
March: Chelsea Carey  MB
April: Jill Officer  MB
May: Kari MacLean  ON
June: Sarah Wark  BC
July: Andrea Leganchuk  ON
August: Trica Affleck  PEI
September: Sabrina Shibley  ON
October: Kristy Jenion  MB
November: Teri Lake  NS
December: Darah Provencal  BC

News from Japan

Team Japan - Photo - Mika Yamaguchi

Wheelchair curling reporter and supporter Yayoi Mashimo tells me that wheelchair curling associations in Asia are organizing a regional competition at the end of this month. The spiel will be in Harbin, China, one of only two Chinese cities with curling ice. Teams from China, Korea, and Japan will participate.

Next month the Japanese national team, from the Shinshu Chair Curling Club, will compete in the World Wheelchair Curling Qualification competition in Lohja, Finland from November 7-12.

Reports and photos from last year's Japanese National Championships can be seen HERE.

Photos of Team Japan taken at the Vancouver Paralympics by Yayoi's friend Mika Yamaguchi, who sadly lost her battle against cancer this August, can be seen HERE.

Saskatchewan selection and national development camp

Deadline for applications to attend Provincial Team Selection Camp is November 12th, 2010. Saskatchewan Curling Association 306-780-9202 or 1-877-722-2875.

Five curlers will be chosen to represent Saskatchewan at the National Wheelchair Curling Championship March 20 to 27, 2011 in Edmonton, AB.

A CCA Talent ID/Development Camp will take place at the same time.

Date:             November 27, 2010
Location:        Regina – Callie Curling Club
Times:           10:00 am to 8:00 pm
Registration Fee:    $30.00 (lunch & supper provided)

Athletes coming to the camp will be provided development sessions and evaluated on the following:

-    Delivery Technical Skills and Shot Making Ability
-    Game Strategy & Tactics
-    Ability to work in a team environment

Full information is available HERE

Nine attend inaugural national talent identification camp

The first in what is planned as a nationwide series of talent identification and development camps is taking place in Calgary, Alberta, this weekend. Team Smart, the 2010 provincial champions, and 4 curlers from Edmonton are taking part.

The camps are an attempt by the CCA to reach out across Canada to ensure that every talented curler has the opportunity to make themselves known to those in charge of the national team.

As part of that effort, national coach Wendy Morgan has put together a booklet outlining "National Wheelchair Program Expectations" that includes an extensive variety of drills.

The drills come with a proviso that there are a 'work in progress' that will be revised and improved as field testing occurs.

"We need to ensure they are valid and reflect the current standard of play," says Gerry Peckham, the person in overall charge of Canada's high performance coaching.

You can view the booklet HERE

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Norway sweeps to win at Kinross International

Maria Duncan, playing lead for Team Norway

Local club curler Maria Duncan played lead for Norway as they completed their sweep of the competition at the Kinross International, earning big wins over Wales and Scotland 4 (who gave up a 6 in the 2nd) before finishing with a 7-4 win over Rosemary Lenton's Scotland 1.

Norway   -   0  2  3  0  1  1   -  7
Sotland1  -  2  0  0  2  0   0  -  4

Norway's full results and some photos can be viewed HERE.

Switzerland earned second place on a countback of ends won to break a tie with Scotland 1.

Winners - Norway
Per Fagerhoi, Runar Bjornstad, Maria Duncan, Rune Lorensten, Jostein Stardahl

 Runners-up - SwitzerlandManfred Bollinger, Sybille Steiner, Claudia Huttenmoser, Rony Liechtenhan, Daniel Meyer

Standing - Councilor Willie Robertson and Brian Martin - Ailsa Craig Jewellery - sponsor.

Jim Armstrong pleads guilty to "intent to mislead or defraud"

Jim Armstrong, skip of Canada's gold medal winning Paralympic wheelchair curling team, today changed his plea to guilty of distributing pills with an intent to deceive. The trafficking charges outlined in the original indictment are presumably dropped and the trial scheduled for Monday October 25th will not take place.

He faces up to three years prison, though the plea agreement, which does not bind the sentencing judge, recommends that he be fined $50,000, perform community service hours and be sentenced to the time he already served in U.S. Custody. Sentencing is scheduled for January 28th before Judge Martinez of the US District Court.

Here's part of the United States Attorney’s Office press release.


Counterfeit Drugs Shipped from China and India to Blaine Post Office, Distributed in Canada

            JAMES PETER ARMSTRONG, 59, of Richmond B.C. Canada, and his son, GREGORY JAMES ARMSTRONG, 28, also of Richmond, B.C., pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to selling and dispensing counterfeit drugs with the intent to mislead or defraud.  JAMES ARMSTRONG is a retired dentist and was a member of the Canadian Paralympic curling team.  The men face up to three years in prison when sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez on January 28, 2011.

Read the full release HERE

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Two teams unbeaten midway through Kinross International

Per Fagerhøi, Runar Bjørnstad, Jostein Stordahl, Rune Lorentsen

& Team Norway Coach Thoralf Hognestad
Team Norway, with some new faces and refound enthusiasm after the disappointments of the past couple of years, are tied at 3-0 with Scotland 1 at the midpoint of the Kinross International.

Coach Thoralf Hognestad, back in charge after a year away, says the team's spirits are high and skip Rune Lorentsen is enjoying the game again. Certainly the results have been decisive: a 7-2 win over what on paper looked a formidable Scotland 2 side (Aileen Nielsen, Tom Killin, Angie Malone and George Ewan), and overwhelming defeats of Scotland 3 and Switzerland.

For Norwegian speakers there is a web page with today's action HERE.

Norway introduced two new players, Runar Bjørnstad and Paralympic skiier Per Fagerhøi, though they had to borrow local club player Maria Duncan as they were unable to travel with a female player.

Runar and Per are alternating games in Kinross, but next month at the Prague Open, Rune and Jostein will play with two more newcomers; Tone Edvartsen and Terje Rafdal.

Rosemary Lenton, a late cut from the 2010 British Paralympic squad, has skipped Scotland 1 to a 3-0 start and will play Norway in the final draw Thursday at 3pm local time.

The teams and schedule can be found HERE.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

via Twitter

CCA launches Team Canada Talent Identification programme

It's the start of a new quadrennial, and the CCA is aware that procedures for consideration for Team Canada training have appeared less than transparent.

Does this mean they plan to follow the lead of US A and (more significantly) Scotland by holding open tryouts? Well, not exactly, but they are slowly moving in that direction and promising this year a more public process.

The CCA's Wendy Morgan, in partnership with provincial organizations, is holding a series of national talent identification camps with the aim of allowing every wheelchair curler with the ambition and ability to perform to national team standards, the opportunity to be assessed by national coaching staff.

Read Wendy's plan outline HERE.

How do you ensure a place? That will depend on the policy of your provincial association. The initial CCA guideline was to invite to the camp last year's provincial champions plus 2 or 3 others deemed deserving. In Alberta this is what will happen in Calgary this coming weekend. Team Smart (the 2010 provincial champions) will be joined by 3 curlers from Edmonton.

In Manitoba invitations were issued to 10 curlers, "all our wheelchair curlers with experience," according to provincial coordinator Elaine Owen. Saskatchewan is running the camp in conjunction with their provincial team selection camp, open to everyone qualified to play for the province.

Atlantic Canada will hold a competition and camp on January 14th and will be inviting everyone who has appeared at a National Championships or wheelchair curling camp the past two seasons.

Every province has a wheelchair curling coordinator who will be responsible for deciding who will be invited to attend their camp. The names are listed at the end of this post. Some will have been actively involved with wheelchair curling, and others only in an administrative sense.

There has been a lot of grumbling in the past by people who felt their skills had been overlooked. This time round, they at least have the opportunity to know who is doing the choosing, and where and when.

Gerry Peckham agrees that no one wants a situation where participation depends on who you know rather than what you can do on the ice. If you think you have the skills to challenge for a Team Canada place, it is up to you to make sure an invitation comes your way.

Provincial coordinators:

Helen Radford - Atlantic Canada

Alan Smith - Quebec

Tom Ward - Ontario

Dave Kawahara - Northern Ontario

Elaine Owen - Manitoba

Amber Holland - Saskatchewan

Kathy Odegard - Alberta

Heather Beatty - British Columbia

3rd Annual Kinross International underway

Bob Cowan reminds me that the 3rd Annual Kinross International got underway today.

Last year it attracted six Paralympic squads in a nine team field but will still host seven teams, with Switzerland and Norway joining Wales and four Scottish teams for play through Thursday.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sudbury CC program begins October 24

Wheelchair curling in Northern Ontario adds another venue with Sudbury CC hosting wheelchair curling Sundays beginning October 24. Call 705-560-3309 for more information.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Quebec's Team Lessard has a blog


Team Lessard, who have reorganised this season and now play out of the Magog CC under new coach Germain Tremblay, have started their own blog.

You can post an online greeting or comment and follow the team's progress at ÉQUIPE LESSARD. (Introductory post also in English)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Team USA's Patrick McDonald out for season

Patrick McDonald, the lone west coast member of Team USA, will undergo surgery for a chronic shoulder problem and will miss the entire season.

"He had hoped it could wait till next Spring," team leader Marc DePerno told me, "but it requires immediate attention. We'll select a replacement at a later date."

Team USA have just completed their trials and had nominated a USA "B" team, so will have opportunities to see how prospective replacements perform, initially at the USA Open in Utica, NY, November 12 - 14.

Patrick broke into the squad in 2009. He played as an alternate at the 2009 Worlds, but saw more playing time during the Vancouver Paralympics.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lakeshore CC (NS) begins Saturday sessions on October 16th

The holiday weekend has delayed the start of the Lakeshore CC wheelchair curling sessions for a week. They will begin Saturday October 16t, 2.45 till 5pm.

Cost is $4 and no experience is necessary. Able-bodied friends who are prepared to use a delivery stick, are also welcome.

Nanaimo program off to a promising start

As mentioned a couple of days ago, the newly accessible Nanaimo Curling Centre has programmed wheelchair curling for Wednesday mornings, and six wheelchair users showed up on the first day.

"Three were first timers and three had some experience," club manager Denise Wood told me. "Two have decided to play in one of our regular curling leagues, and we're hoping to attract nine or 10 regulars as the season progresses."

As for the change from club to centre, she explained: "The design (above) was a result of local design students presenting their concepts to our membership."

Stranraer ramp lets you drown your sorrows

Aileen Nielsen with Hammy Mcmillan Snr.
photo courtesy Michael McCreadie via Bob Cowan

Stranraer Ice rink, which celebrated its 40th birthday this year, now has a ramp that extends from the bar to the changing rooms, making the entire facility wheelchair accessible.

Michael McCreadie told Bob Cowan: "It is quite long and goes from the top of the stairs at the bar down to the middle door leading to the changing rooms. As wheelchair users we can go independently anywhere on the ice rink. Congratulations on their foresight and no doubt when word gets round more wheelchair users will use this great venue."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Richmond Spiel needs one more team or may move to 2on2 format

The Richmond Centre for Disability, an active supporter of wheelchair curling for many years, had hoped to celebrate their 25th Anniversary International with a big field for their December spiel.

They have extended the application deadline to October 15th, hoping to add at least one more team and reach the minimum five entries needed to run the tournament with four person teams.

The organizers hope the event will run as a 2on2 if no more entries are received.

The competition runs from December 1 - 4, with practice ice available November 30th. Entries are $250 for up to 12 teams with half payable by the registration deadline of October 15th.

For more information and a registration form contact Rich Green.

Nanaimo CC now fully accessible

The eight-sheet Nanaimo Curling Centre (the CCA has been trying to get clubs to rebrand as centres, hoping to sound more inclusive) is now fully accessible to wheelchair users after the addition of an elevator.

Time has been set aside for wheelchair curling on Wednesday mornings, though there's no reason why wheelchair users should not do what the general public does; jump right in and join a "fun" league, even if you lack experience.

The club manager is Denise Wood who'll be happy to arrange ice time for wheelchair users to try the sport.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Events calendar

I get frequent emails asking whether I know the dates of this or that wheelchair curling event. When I am given the information, I put it on the calendar page of the website.

If you know of an event that may be of interest to those who follow wheelchair curling, please send it to me at and I will make it available to everyone.