Wheelchair curling. Amazing Disabled Players Make it Look Easy
Wheelchair curling is a sport for paraplegics. It is a sport that combines a lot of skill and it takes a ton of strategy to be a winner.
Wheelchair curling is the only Paralympics sport that comprises teams made up of both men and women on the same team. The Torino Paralympic Winter Games saw the first entry to this sport.
The sport requires that the entrant must have a disability to the lower half of the body. You must require a wheelchair for mobility. Your disability could include double amputation, multiple sclerosis, a spine injury or cerebral palsy.
In this sport no brooms are used as in curling for the able bodied athletes.
So how does it work?
Wheelchair Curling works similar to shuffleboard in one way and bowling in another. The teams made up of both male and female athletes play against another team. The object of the game is to propel the 19.1 kilogram stone down to the other end of the ice where concentric rings are marked on the ice similar to a bulls-eye.
An end is similar to an inning in baseball or a period in hockey. The teams play six ends. Each person on each team will slide or throw, as it is called, two stones, 16 in total. The wheelchair must be stationary while doing so. The player can either use their hands or an extender cue that connects with the stone to push the stone to the circles.
At the end of each end, the team with the most stones closest to the centre wins. At the conclusion of the six ends the scores are tallied and the team with the best record is declared the winner.
Because there is no sweeping of the ice, strategy is most important. In able bodied curling, players are allowed to sweep the ice in front of the stone as it is sliding. The rapid sweeping causes the ice in front of the stone to melt momentarily. Since there is less friction from water than ice, the ability of the stone to curl is delayed therefore allowing the stone to be steered as the players desire.
This is why it takes more skill to curl without sweeping. The person throwing the stone must calculate distance and the amount of curling the stone will turn. The stone glides on the surface of the ice because the ice has a surface that is similar to a pebbled effect. Skilled icemakers will set up the surface once the temperature of the ice is maintained at about 25 F or -5C.
The pebble effect is applied by an expert using water droplets. During the game the pebbles act upon the stone causing it to curl or turn. The pebbles slowly get knocked off as the game progresses thus changing the curling effect of the stone.
The ice surface is 146 feet long and approximately 16 feet wide. The 12 foot set of rings, called the house, are the target and the distance from the centre, or button as it is called, to the backboard is 16 feet. There is a line drawn that is 37 feet from the backboard and that is called the hogline. Any stone that does not even touch the house is not counted.
A gentleman named Rusty Drew passed away early in 2008. He was the inventor of the extender curlers cue. It is so named because it extends the playing career for those curlers who cannot handle the curling stones by bending down. Disabled curlers use them while in the wheelchair. The stone is released by pulling back the cue at the last moment of the push.
About the author: Joe and Irma Mac Millan have enjoyed the Whistler Mountain and valley area of British Columbia for many years. They have camped, hiked and skied the mountains and fished and kayaked the rivers and lakes. Their website http://www.whistler-outdoors.com/ is a must visit for anyone considering a trip to Whistler as well as the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. They invite one and all to take a look.