Paralympian Armstrong aims for curling gold

BOB MACKIN , QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:55 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- The last time Canada played Norway in curling, Edmonton’s Kevin Martin beat the pants off tacky-slacked Thomas Ulsrud’s team to win Olympic gold last month.

The stakes aren’t that high Sunday when skip Jim Armstrong leads his all-British Columbia rink against Rune Lorentsen in day 2 of competition at the Vancouver Paralympic Centre. But Richmond resident Armstrong wants a similar result in his quest for gold at the 2010 Winter Paralympics.

"Kevin and I go back forever. They set the bar for efficiency,” Armstrong said. “We're Canadian and we're here in Canada and the crowd was great (at the Olympics). We hope we get some of the spin-off."

Armstrong, 59, won the world wheelchair championship at the same $87 million community centre last year with lead Sonja Gaudet of Vernon, the only remaining member of Canada’s gold medal side from Turin 2006. Martin used the crowd to his advantage at the Olympics, but Armstrong knows it can go the other way.

“We have a big advantage,” he said. “It truly is like a fifth man, but I wouldn't want to be at home and not playing well."

Six-time Brier participant Armstrong picked up wheelchair curling in 2007 after suffering a degenerative back condition and a bilateral knee replacement that made it impossible for him to continue the sport he played since he was eight.

There is no sweeping in wheelchair curling, but Armstrong said his advantage from is “ice reading.”

"You learn humility in a big hurry,” he said. “Suddenly the rock is four feet away from you and anything you do wrong is magnified."

Armstrong and Gaudet, who was paralyzed by a fall from a horse 12 years ago, are joined by second Ina Forrest, a paraplegic from Armstrong, B.C. and third Darryl Neighbour, a paraplegic from Richmond, B.C. Paraplegic Bruno Yizek of Calgary is listed as the alternate while Joe Rea of Prince George is the coach.

Also Sunday, women’s and men’s super giant slalom skiing for visually impaired, sitting and standing athletes is at Whistler Creekside. The Whistler Paralympic Park hosts men’s 15 kilometre and women’s 10 km sitting cross-country skiing.

Canada meets Sweden in day two of the sledge hockey tournament at Thunderbird Arena after opening with a 4-0 win on Saturday against Italy.


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