Vision-impaired curlers chase title

JOE PAVIA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:57 AM ET

It's all about ability.

While curling fans follow the fate of teams battling to represent their provinces at national events, some curlers are getting ready to let their skills shine on the ice despite not being able to curl like most people do.

On Sunday, the third annual national blind curling championships begin at the Ottawa Curling Club with teams competing from British Columbia to The Rock.

The week-long, two-draws-a-day bonspiel begins with opening ceremonies Sunday.

MEET-AND-GREET

Organizers have a meet-and-greet lined up with Jean-Michel Menard that day, plus anyone can get their photo taken with the Tim Hortons Tankard -- the original Brier trophy.

From 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., anyone, sighted or not, can throw rocks for a chance of winning a trip for two to Montreal on VIA Rail.

Vision-impaired athletes from across Canada as well as those who are totally blind will spend the following six days trying to win a national title.

All the curling takes place at the Ottawa.

SALT LAKE CITY BOUND: Ottawa-area deaf curlers who form Team Canada are pioneers of a sort at the Deaf Olympics, which begin tomorrow in Salt Lake City, Utah. The team consists of Mike Raby and David Joseph of Alymer as well as Andre Guillemette, a former local curler who now lives in Montreal. Denise Hoekstra of Orleans is the coach. Curling is a demonstration sport at this year's Deaf Olympics which continue through Feb. 10. Nepean's Les and Gloria Sicoli will exhibit torn allegiances. Their son David, who now lives in Texas, is a member of the U.S. squad. Les Sicoli wants badly to play against his son one day in the Deaf Olympics.

WHEELCHAIR WORLDS: Canada will attempt to defend its Paralympics gold medal at the world wheelchair curling championship, to be held in Sweden beginning Feb. 17. The OCA provincial wheelchair curling championships begin February 21.

SPECIAL OLYMPICS: The Ontario Special Olympics Winter Games begin tomorrow in Owen Sound with curling represented as one of six sports.

ALL HEART: The eighth annual Crystal Heart Curling Classic begins tomorrow. It has raised almost $170,000 for heart and stroke research. In all, 80 teams participate. The finals go Sunday at the RA Centre (1 p.m.).

SCOTTIES FIELD DETERMINED: Gatineau's Chantal Osborne, along with Cheryl Morgan, Catherine Derick (Ottawa) and Sylvie Daniel (Gatineau), lost just one game in the Quebec playdowns to advance to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts national championship, to be held Feb. 17-25 in Lethbridge, Alta. Other Scotties-bound teams are: Kelly Scott (Team Canada), Suzanne Gaudet (P.E.I.), Heather Strong (Newfoundland), Kelley Law (British Columbia), Cheryl Bernard (Alberta), Jennifer Jones (Manitoba), Krista Scharf (Ontario), Sandy Comeau (New Brunswick), Jill Mouzar (Nova Scotia) and Kerry Koe (Territories/Yukon). Saskatchewan's representative will be decided Sunday.

CURLING RESULTS: The last two men's provincial berths were determined in last weekend's two Challenge Rounds. Returning to the provincials are John Epping and Heath McCormick. In regional Masters action, those advancing to the provincials are: A -- Reg Plaster and Pat Brigham; B -- Earle Morris and Margaret Stewart. The regional stick curling champs who go to provincial play are Glenn MacLeod, Bob Goodson, Roger Lajoie and Bud Garrod.

GOLDEN TOUCH: Canada's Brittany Grego captured the gold medal at the World University Games last week. Ottawa's Kirk Smyth crafted the ice that, by all reports, exhibited some wicked curl. Smyth used the same plant and rocks as did the Turin Olympic icemakers, whose ice curled an inch, it seemed. Wonder why?

CURLING THIS WEEK: The M&M Meat Shops Canadian juniors start Saturday. The two youngest skips ever to make an appearance -- 12-year-old Thomas Scoffin and 13-year-old Sarah Koltun -- are from the Yukon ... The Tim Horton's Colts zones begin Saturday.


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