IPC Ice Sledge Hockey reveals new competition cycle in lead-up to PyeongChang 2018
Team USA won the sled hockey gold medal at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, becoming the first team to win consecutive Paralympic titles in the sport.
Following an extensive review of the current state of the sport and major success at Sochi 2014, International Paralympic Committee Ice Sledge Hockey has revealed the competition cycle and the qualification criteria for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
A fair and robust method of qualification progression has been created throughout the next quadrennial period for all participating teams which looks as follows:
- Year 1 (2015): World Championships A-Pool; World Championships B-Pool
- Year 2 (2016): World Championships C-Pool; Regional championships
- Year 3 (2017): World Championships A-Pool; World Championships B-Pool; Qualification Tournament
- Year 4 (2018): Paralympic Winter Games; World Championships C-Pool
Team USA enter the next Paralympic cycle as the two-time Paralympic champions, while Canada are the reigning world champions and South Korea will automatically qualify for PyeongChang 2018 as the host nation's team.
"We are very excited to enhance the IPC Ice Sledge Hockey competition calendar for the next Paralympic cycle, which includes a World Championships C-Pool to include more developing nations in the sport and expand its reach," said Keith Blase, Chairperson of the IPC Ice Sledge Hockey Sport Technical Committee.
The IPC Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool and B-Pool have been moved to years one and three in the Paralympic cycle based on input from participating nations at the last IPC Ice Sledge Hockey Sport Forum.
In 2015, the World Championships A-Pool will bring together the world's top eight teams and in the same year the B-Pool event will include the next six best teams.
Joining Canada and the United States in the A-Pool currently are Russia, Czech Republic, Norway, Italy, Japan and Germany. The B-Pool at the moment includes South Korea, Sweden, Great Britain, Estonia, Slovakia and Poland.
The bottom two finishers from the A-Pool will be relegated to the B-Pool for the 2017 edition of the event, and the top two finishers from the B-Pool will be promoted to the A-Pool for 2017.
The last-place team at the World Championships B-Pool will be relegated to a new C-Pool tournament, which will be created and run in the second and fourth years of each quadrennial.
The C-Pool tournament, to begin in 2016, will provide the opportunity for emerging and newly practicing countries to take part at a competitive international level, contributing to the growth and development of IPC Ice Sledge Hockey worldwide. The top finisher from the C-Pool tournament will be promoted to the B-Pool for the next event.
Potential regional championships may also be included in the competition calendar for 2016.
Then in 2017, the top five finishers from the World Championships A-Pool will directly qualify for PyeongChang 2018. The bottom three teams from the A-Pool event and the top three teams from the B-Pool event will compete at the Qualification Tournament for PyeongChang 2018 that same year.
The top two or three finishers at the Qualification Tournament - depending on the status of the Paralympic host nation's team - will move on to PyeongChang 2018.
A World Championships C-Pool will also take place during the same year as the Paralympic Winter Games.
During the last Paralympic cycle, IPC Ice Sledge Hockey continued to grow, as two countries started up new national programmes, the Ottobock Equipment Loaner Programme was launched and a growth in media coverage brought the likes of The New York Times, NBC, BBC, Russia Today and the Associated Press to the Shayba Arena in Sochi.
IPC Ice Sledge Hockey now hopes to build off that success during the next Paralympic cycle, increasing the number of athletes and nations practicing the sport as well as international awareness.