The Paralympic Winter Games are March 7-16, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. With three medals up for grabs in one wheelchair curling competition, Team USA will send five athletes to compete. Get ready for Sochi with these 14 facts on wheelchair curling:
Around the world
Wheelchair curling is practiced in 24 countries. In the 1990s, the sport gained popularity in Europe, then picked up speed in North America around 2000.
Taking on the world
Wheelchair curling’s first world championship was held in Sursee, Switzerland, in 2002, with the host nation beating Canada 7-6 in the final. It is the only world title won by Switzerland. Canada has three titles: 2009, 2011 and 2013. Scotland won in 2004 and 2005. Norway won in 2007 and 2008. Russia won in 2012.
A pair of Paralympic titles
Wheelchair curling debuted on the Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games program with Canada taking the inaugural gold medal. Great Britain and Sweden won silver and bronze medals, respectively. Canada also took home the gold in the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
Could Team USA make history next month? Heading into the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, the U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Curling Team has never won a medal at the Games. Team USA finished fourth in Vancouver.
World Curling Federation
The International Curling Federation changed its name to the World Curling Federation in 1991. Based in Perth, Scotland, WCF is the global governing body for both able-bodied and wheelchair curling, and oversees rules for both. The primary difference is that no sweeping is allowed in wheelchair curling.
Back to basics
Wheelchair curling competition takes place between two competitors from each of two teams. Stones are "thrown" towards a target at the opposite end of the ice. The object of the game, like boccia, is to get your team’s stones as close to the center of the target, known as the house, as possible. Six ends are played with a possible extra end if the teams are tied after six.
Do you have the time?
Rules mandate that each wheelchair curling game lasts eight ends. Each team can play 68 minutes with one 60 second timeout.
Like a rolling stone
A curling stone weighs about 44 pounds.
Mix it up
While the Olympic Winter Games has men’s and women’s curling competitions, wheelchair curling is a mixed gender sport, with men and women competing alongside each other. The rules mandate that each team must include at least one representative of each gender.
Curling has a unique dictionary. A curling competition is known as a “bonspiel” in the curling crowd. And here are two things that have to do with the house, which is the center of the target: a “button” is a small circle in the center of the house and a “tee” is the center of the house.
Paralympic wheelchair curling competition is open to male and female athletes with various physical disabilities, but all must use a wheelchair in competition. Stones are thrown by athletes while they are stationary in their wheelchair. They can be thrown by hand or with a stick, but there is no sweeping like in the able-bodied curling played at the Olympic Winter Games.
Trusting the skipper
Each curling team consists of a skip, vice skip, second, lead and alternate. Skip is the athlete who directs play for the team, vice skip directs play when it is the skip’s turn, second is who delivers two stones in each end and the alternate is a registered, non-playing member of the team who is eligible to substitute for one of the competing players.
The Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games wheelchair curling events will be held in the “Ice Cube” curling center. It is located in the Coastal Cluster, and the complex will be able to seat 3,000 people. It is a moveable venue, making it possible to be dismantled and transported for post-Games use as a curling center in another Russian city.
Curling on the Cape
Two members of the five athlete 2014 U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Curling Team roster represent the Cape Cod Curling Club, a Paralympic Sport Club as recognized by the U.S. Paralympics division of the United States Olympic Committee. David Palmer (Mashpee, Mass.) competed with Team USA at the 2012 and 2013 World Curling Federation World Wheelchair Championship. Meghan Lino (East Falmouth, Mass.) made her debut in 2013.