Ok #curling fans, let's be honest with one another....how exciting is the month of February for this sport? I mean honestly. We have provincial/territorial championships for both men and women. We have the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Grande Prairie. We have preparation for the upcoming Tim Hortons Brier in Ottawa. We see national championships south of the border with our friends in USA and across the pond throughout Europe. In essence, the big picture path to the World Championships starts sinking in this month for most teams. And the curling fans? We are treated to top notch curling action online and on television every weekend. Stoners and rock heads rejoice!!
The #2016Scotties field has been finalized and teams are putting in their final practice times on the ice, starting to think about what to pack and beginning to ask themselves exactly what they want to be eating during those wonderful 5th end break picnics while the camera is rolling. For some teams, the Scotties dream may be over but there is still a few upcoming Grand Slam events to prepare for. And for many teams, the off-season has arrived a bit too early. Time to start thinking about the 2016/17 season.
While we take a break from women's curling for a moment, our attention shifts towards the final lap on the #RoadToOttawa. Four spots remain on the start list and will be decided this weekend. All four provincial championships have previous champions looking for repeats and teams dreaming of continuing the upset trend we saw with Scotties provincial playdowns. However, before we get to the on-ice competition this week, let's bring in the first surprise guest to this week's blog.
Through the #TwineTime blog, my motto all season has been #growthesport. For curling to succeed, we need to continue being creative, innovative and open minded to new ways to grow the sport for future generations. Now, you may think I am going to go into a rant about #BroomGate (or whatever we are calling it now) but alas friendly follower you would be mistaken. I would rather focus on the positives and a area of the sport we don't often see much coverage or mention: Wheelchair Curling.
Did you know wheelchair curling has been a paralympic sport since 2006 (with Canada claiming all 3 gold medals thus far)? Did you also know the World Wheelchair Curling Championships began in 2002 with 9 teams (Switzerland claiming the inaugural championship over Canada)? Now, the world championships are held every year (with exception to Paralympic Years). In fact, in 2015, there were 12 teams competing annually with an 11-team qualification event. The sport began with 9 nations fielding teams and 13 years later we see 23 nations fielding a team.
Guest blogger and #TwineTime supporter Rebecca recently had the opportunity to surround herself with the USA Wheelchair Curling Team. Welcome back Rebecca:
All week I was itching to sweep the shots coming down the sheets to the houses. On top of that, each night there would be curlers who would ask about subs in leagues for that night. Our club was booked throughout the week, but I found a great compromise so that Pat did have a chance to play in a league game. During my Friday night game, he delivered lead stones and I swept the other stones with the rest of the team. Each end was started so well with Pat delivering a guard then a draw behind into the house. It was a fun game to play and an easy W for the team.
A great thing about curling is that you instantly know if you made the shot or you didn’t. The challenge of curling is to identify those small tweaks that you have to do to add to consistency of your own game. Like the saying goes, “Practice until you can’t miss the shot, not until you make the shot.” During practice with Pat on Tuesday and Wednesday, we decided on some adjustments that I applied in my following games. I’ll be darned, they worked!! Duh.
Spending my week at the club with the team has benefited me in so many ways. I was able to see different techniques and drills to evaluate the players. I joined the team during the sports psych day and gained new knowledge and inspiration from Lanny Bassham. He is an American sports shooter who won a gold medal in the 1976 Summer Olympics, and a silver medal in the 1972 Summer Olympics. If Coach Steve Brown has invited him to speak, then it’s smart to listen.
It became time for the coaches to decide which curlers made the team. Even I was nervous waiting for their decision. I had formed my own judgments, but I didn’t add them into the mix. After the wait was over, everyone reacted differently, but the team came together to support each other. They are still Team USA, but 3 of them will be on the alternate list instead of going to Worlds. Each athlete is admiral keeping their composure after the results and supporting each other. I was definitely inspired by their bond as a team. Check out the press release naming all of the members going to Worlds.
The biggest take away that I got from the week is that there are so many different ways to be involved with curling without actually being on the ice. I was lucky enough to find an article by Team USA talking about the WCF Coach Mentorprogram. I am fortunate enough to have all of the right ducks lined up in a row so that I can go to Jacksonville to learn more about the coaching side of curling. Not only do I get to dive into my new interest of coaching and leadership within a team, I will get to see some of the games at the USA Nationals competition. Going to Jacksonville is definitely a great step in the right direction towards growing the players in our club.
Who knows what my future holds, but so far I’m working on certifications for Instructor, Wheelchair Instructor, Officiating, and now a coaching program. That reminds me, I need to go figure out paperwork.
Thank you Rebecca for providing some great insight into #WheelchairCurling and continuing to help #growthesport. Need another reason to get excited for curling in February? The 2016 World Wheelchair Curling Championships take place February 21 - 28 in Lucerne, Switzerland. Can Russia repeat their 2015 championship and claim their 3rd title in 4 years? Can China continue their steady climb up the podium, seeing bronze medal finishes in 2013 and 2014 jumping to runner-up last year? Can Canada add to their record 3 World Championship victories? And can Team USA, as mentioned above, find the podium for the first time since a bronze medal finish in 2008? For more information, check out WheelchairCurling.com.
Newfoundland & Labrador - Brad Gushue
P.E.I. - Adam Casey
Saskatchewan - Steve Laycock
Ontario - Glenn Howard
New Brunswick - Mike Kennedy
Get ready though folks, this week brings some of the most anticipated provincial playdowns of the season, namely Alberta and Manitoba. Let's dive into the preview and predictions for the 4 remaining champions:
Championship Teams: Team McEwen, Team Dunstone, Team Carruthers, Team Lyburn
USA National Curling Championships
While most of the attention within the curling world seems focused on the playdowns in Canada, curling fans south of the border flocked to Jacksonville, Florida this week for the USA National Curling Championships. Yup, this is not a misprint my friends. As we speak (or as you read I should say) curling is taking place...on ice....in the cold....in Florida? Now talk about #growthesport?!?
2015 Champion: John Shuster
USA Men's National Curling Champion: Team Shuster over Team Brown
Scottish Curling Championships
Oh we are not done yet my friends...I told you at the beginning of this blog post we had a lot of exciting curling coverage to get to. We travelled through Canada. Took a detour in sunny Florida. And we end our weekly journey in the birthplace of the sport: Scotland!
2015 Champion: Ewan MacDonald
Scottish Men's National Curling Champion: Team Brewster over Team Murdoch
Alright friends, what a blog we had this week. Thank you for reading through it! Thank you to Rebecca for re-joining the #TwineTime family as a guest blogger. As always, pay attention to CurlingZone and CurlingGeek for up to date scores, draws and playoff standings all week and weekend.
Oh right....I promised another surprise announcement this week didn't I? Well, here it is friends. Stay tuned for next week's big Scotties preview blog post when #TwineTime adds another member to the family...this time 2015 Ontario Champion skip Julie Hastings!!! Julie will join me for a player profile and offer her insight into what to expect in Grande Prairie.