World Wheelchair Championship Preview: Sochi, Russia
Team Scotland depart for Sochi, Russia today (12th Feb) for the 2013 World Wheelchair Curling Championship which begins Saturday 16th February at the Ice Cube Curling Center. This will be the first curling event to be held in the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Curling Venue, with the Wheelchair World Curling Championship being used as a test event for next year’s Paralympic Winter Games.
Ten mixed national teams will compete in the event which is the third and final opportunity for the world’s top wheelchair curling teams to gather points for their nations to qualify for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Team Scotland consists of Aileen Neilson who is skipping in her third World Championship and will be joined by two team mates from her 2011 Silver Medal winning team, Gregor Ewan at vice and Tom Killin at lead. This will be Gregor’s third appearance at the World Championship while Tom Killin has competed in multiple World Championships and is a member of the Scottish Disability Sport Hall of Fame.
Two new athletes name to the team this year are Robert McPherson and Gill Keith. Robert joined the National Performance Program this past May and Gill was selected to the Performance Program two seasons ago. There looks to be a good combination of wisdom, experience and youthful exuberance on the team that is travelling to Sochi this year. Picture top right: Team Scotland with Head Coach Wheelchair Curling, Tony Zummack (back).
The opportunity to travel to the host country for next year’s Paralympics and compete in the same venue that will be used for Games next year is invaluable to the team and Aileen, the only female skip in the field, will be hoping to improve on Scotland’s eighth place finish in 2012.
Many athletes who competed at the 2012 World Championship in Chuncheon, Korea, are returning to participate in Sochi. They include reigning World Champions, Russia, who will be looking to defend their title on home soil with Skip Andrey Smirnov leading the same team that won gold last year.
Last year’s runners up, Korea, will be looking to go one better as Hak-Sung Kim skips the same line up that picked up silver medals in Chuncheon. Kim has taken silver twice at the World Championships and also at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
Haitao Wang’s team from China will also return to the World Championship after finishing with the bronze medal last year.
Making their World Wheelchair Curling Championship debut last year, Slovakia finished in fourth place. Skip, Radoslav Duris, returns with the same team that performed so well in Korea.
Canada meanwhile welcome back Paralympic gold medallist and two time World Champion, skip Jim Armstrong. After their seventh place finish last year, Canada will be aiming to get back amongst the medals after winning the event two years ago in Prague, Czech Republic.
Norway took the long road to this year’s World Championship. After finishing ninth last year they dropped down to the World Wheelchair Curling Qualification event. However Rune Lorentsen and his team won the qualification event in November and will be looking to return to the form that saw them win the World Championship in 2007 and 2008.
Finland, skipped by Vesa Hellman, finished runners-up in the Qualification event, behind Norway, and qualified for their first ever World Wheelchair Curling Championship. The Finns will be looking to finish as high up as possible in the standings in order to have a chance of qualifying for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
Team USA will again be represented by skip Patrick McDonald and the same team who earned a fifth place finish in the 2012 event.
Two-time Paralympic Games bronze medallist Jalle Jungell returns to skip Sweden and will be looking to win his second medal at the World Wheelchair Curling Championship having picked up the silver medal in 2009.
The ten teams will compete in a round robin which runs from Saturday 16th to Saturday 23rd February. Team Scotland play Finland in their first game on Saturday 16th.
Semi finals take place on Friday 22nd with the Bronze and Gold medal games scheduled for 09:30 and 15:30 local time (MSK – Moscow Standard Time) on Saturday 23rd.
Further qualification points for the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia will be awarded at the end of this year’s world championship. Only ten teams will qualify for the Games. For more information visit: http://www.worldcurling.org/curling-at-the-paralympics
Results, news and photos from the World Wheelchair Curling Championship 2013 can be seen here on the event website: http://www.wwhcc2013.curlingevents.com