Illness hampers Walchuk's ability to play

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 1:11 PM ET

Kevin Martin's 3-0 start at the Canadian Open here this week is even more impressive when you consider the condition of his third, Don Walchuk.

The Edmonton vet, considered one of the top thirds in the game, is still recovering from a serious ailment that confined him to a hospital bed for six straight days in December.

"I was hooked up to IV and limping around," Walchuk was saying yesterday. "I didn't eat for four days. Couldn't get out of bed, hardly. It wasn't much fun. Oh, I was worried. They were doing all kinds of tests."

The illness actually struck Walchuk at the Olympic trials in Halifax.

"My stomach was getting bloated and sore," he said. "I thought, whatever, it'll go away. Friday night, I actually went to emergency in Halifax."

Like Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones, who suffered a bout with kidney stones, Walchuk spent a night in the hospital, something his team has kept quiet, until now.

It was upon returning to Edmonton that Walchuk readmitted himself, and this time he spent six days in the care of doctors, who initially couldn't find anything wrong.

"You gotta find something wrong," Walchuk recalled telling the doctor. "I don't want there to be something wrong, but there is."

Finally, a CT scan revealed Walchuk had a serious bowel infection.

Medication has slowly cleared it, but he admits he's nowhere near 100% this week.

For instance, Walchuk isn't strong enough to sweep hard, and he can't throw big takeout weight.

So Martin's had to change his strategy on a few shots.

"Still, he's throwing board weight. That's as hard as he can throw," Martin said. "But he's playing well. He's concentrating."

Martin says there's little doubt Walchuk's illness was a factor in his team's poor trials performance.

"When you spend a night in hospital during the trials, that's bad," the skip said. "He was really sick. It was all hell, from Tuesday on."

Martin says he'd like to see the rules changed, allowing teams to carry more than one sub, particularly in big events, like the Olympics.

He's been in favour of that ever since a bout with the flu weakened Canada's Mike Harris in his failed bid for an Olympic gold medal in 1998.

"You go to the Olympics with one spare," Martin said. "It's cost us one gold already. How many more are we going to have to lose to change it?"


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