Wheelchair Curling: Sports of the Paralympic Winter Games
Wheelchair curling is a team ice sport that requires aim, communication and strategic planning to win. Wheelchair curling was inspired by curling and is open to athletes with physical impairments. The sport first appeared in the Paralympic Winter Games in 2006 in Torino, Italy. Canada, Great Britain and Sweden have proven to be the most successful wheelchair curlers so far in this young Paralympic event, winning the most medals at the Paralympic Games. Wheelchair curling is played on a layer of 3cm thick ice called a sheet that stretches 45.7m long and 5m wide. It’s the same size as a the sheet used in able-bodied curling and uses the same 3.658m targets called “houses.” The one difference is the addition of wheelchair lines, which are made by freezing long strips of wool to the ice. These lines help the athletes position the stone at the beginning of the delivery. Curling stones are large, polished rocks with coloured handles and flat bottoms weighing between 17.4kg and 19.96kg. Wheelchair curling athletes use a delivery stick to aid them in precisely positioning, sliding and rotating the stones. Delivery sticks range in length, but all have a bracket on one end that fits loosely over the stone’s handle acting as an extension of the player’s arm or hand. Wheelchair curling is played as a single event with teams consisting of both genders at all times during games. Players from each team take turns sliding stones toward the target, until both teams have taken eight shots. Wheelchair curlers slide stones from a stationary position, with their wheels locked and their feet off the ice. For added stability, a teammate positions themselves directly behind the shooter, locking their own wheels and holding onto the shooters chair, making sure they don’t move or slide when pushing the stone. The main difference between wheelchair curling and curling is that wheelchair athletes do not sweep the ice. Not sweeping the ice makes delivering the stones more difficult, so a Paralympic curler’s aim must be even more precise! After all sixteen stones have been played, the team whose stone is closest to the button, or centre of the house, wins the end and receives a point. If a team has multiple stones closer to the button than their opponent’s best stone, then multiple points are awarded, one for each stone. After eight ends, the team with the most points wins! Wheelchair curling is a sophisticated, tactical game and is one of the newer Paralympic winter sports. To win, strategy, precision and teamwork are key!