Vision-impaired curlers get their due

JOE PAVIA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

There'll be curling inspiration in Ottawa next week.

Not from elite players like Johnny Mo or Jennifer Jones. This inspiration comes from the athletes in the Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championship, Feb. 7-12 at the Ottawa Curling Club.

The CCA-sanctioned event uses standard rules with a few twists. At least one player must be sightless. Another can be partially vision impaired, while two can see somewhat.

Directing all this talent falls to the coach and a guide. The coach trains and advises on strategy, but is not allowed on the ice except during timeouts. The guide remains on the ice, helping to line up rock handles, advising on rock position during sweeping and interpreting to the thrower what the skip wants and how to accomplish the shot. The guide cannot advise on strategy. Each team can also carry a designated sweeper.

“They train the same way all curlers do. They work hard on developing their skills and learning the strategy of the game,” said Manitoba coach Walter Koop. “It is very rewarding for me as a coach to watch them play and to see all the hard work pay off.”

The championship aims to demonstrate the ability of blind and vision-impaired athletes and to encourage participation at the local level. Organizers and athletes are also working hard to make vision-impaired curling a recognized sport at the Paralympics as soon as 2014.

Nine teams, including the defending champions from B.C., hit the ice for the first draw Sunday at 3 p.m. The finals are Friday, Feb. 12, at 1:30 p.m. For a full schedule, visit ccbnational.net.

OCA results

In Colts zone 1, Shane Latimer advances to regions. In Gore Schoolboy and Schoolgirl regions, those advancing are: 1A — Emily Au and Kurtis Byrd, B — Katherine Nicholas and David Staples. Masters regional winners going to provincials are: 1A — Raja Wysocki and Alex McKinney, 1B — Bonnie Morris and Doug Burnside.

Junior achievement

The Ontario Junior Curling Tour men’s champions are from Huntley, skipped by Jason Au with Mat Larsen, Travis Ackroyd and Ian Romansky. The women’s side was won by Alex Hughes with Shannon Harrington, Julie Frame and Jenna Harrington ... Navan’s Mat Camm will be Canada’s fifth at the junior worlds, March 6-14 in Switzerland ... The bantam provincials begin today in Gananoque. Representing this area are two Huntley teams led by Lauren Horton and Evie Fortier, while boys’ rinks are skipped by Winchester’s Daniel Lillico and Perth’s Devan Barr.

Odds and ends

Even though most Scotties curlers aren’t married, there are still a lot of misses on the ice … The winning rink at Navan’s Tim Hortons Mixed ’Spiel was Mike Johansen, Barb Kelly, Bob Boland and Diana Favel.

Flash curling

The NCC and OVCA are inviting curlers to the Rideau Canal at the NAC Sunday at 9 a.m. to take part in a Web-televised shoot. Wear red; a 160-by-60-foot ice-embedded maple leaf will be the platform on which participants spell out Go Canada.

Curling this week

TSN’s Scotties playoff coverage begins with the 1-2 Page game Friday at 7:30 p.m., followed by the 3-4 game Saturday at 1 p.m. The semi-final is Saturday at 7 p.m., with the final Sunday at 2:30 p.m ... The Ontario Tankard semi-finals and final are tape-delayed on Rogers Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 8 p.m.


Photos