Synopsis: Wheelchair curling is an adaptation of curling for athletes with disability governed by the World Curling Federation and is one of the sports in the Winter Paralympic Games. Wheelchair curling is played with the same rocks and on the same ice as regular curling, though the rocks are thrown from a stationary wheelchair and there is no sweeping. National and international competitions are played under rules devised by the World Curling Federation.
Wheelchair Curling works similar to shuffleboard in one way and bowling in another. The teams made up of both male and female athletes play against another team. The object of the game is to propel the 19.1 kilogram stone down to the other end of the ice where concentric rings are marked on the ice similar to a bulls-eye.
An end is similar to an inning in baseball or a period in hockey. The teams play six ends. Each person on each team will slide or throw, as it is called, two stones, 16 in total. The wheelchair must be stationary while doing so. The player can either use their hands or an extender cue that connects with the stone to push the stone to the circles.
At the end of each end, the team with the most stones closest to the center wins. At the conclusion of the six ends the scores are tallied and the team with the best record is declared the winner.
Wheelchair curling is played with the same rocks and on the same ice as regular curling, though the rocks are thrown from a stationary wheelchair and there is no sweeping. Rocks may be thrown by hand while leaning over the side of the wheelchair, or pushed by a delivery stick. This is a pole with a bracket that fits over the rock handle, allowing the rock to be pushed while applying correct rotation.
Paralympic Wheelchair Curling Infographic Explanation - Image Courtesy of Allianz.com
In June 2008 the rule mandating all stones must be touching center line at the start of delivery was relaxed to allow stones delivered between the house and near hogline to be placed within 18 inched either side of the center line. This expansion of delivery zone by approximately 6 inches either side of center, permits wheelchair curling delivery angles closer to those available to regular curlers using the hack. Stones must be released prior to reaching the near hogline.
National and international competitions are played under rules devised by the World Curling Federation. These rules mandate that teams be of mixed gender, and that games be eight ends in duration. Time limits of 68 minutes for each team with one 60 second time out will be enforced by time clocks. Eligibility is limited to people with disabilities so that a wheelchair is used for daily mobility - more specifically, those who are non-ambulant or can walk only very short distances.
Wheelchair curling can be played by people with a wide range of disabilities. All that is needed is the co-ordination to exert a measured pushing force, and a tolerance for cold. It is not an aerobic activity. Without the need for sweepers, wheelchair curling is well suited to two-person formats such as stick-curling.
In able bodied curling, players are allowed to sweep the ice in front of the stone as it is sliding. The rapid sweeping causes the ice in front of the stone to melt momentarily. Since there is less friction from water than ice, the ability of the stone to curl is delayed therefore allowing the stone to be steered as the players desire. This is why it takes more skill to curl without sweeping. The person throwing the stone must calculate distance and the amount of curling the stone will turn. The stone glides on the surface of the ice because the ice has a surface that is similar to a pebbled effect. Skilled ice-makers will set up the surface once the temperature of the ice is maintained at about 25 F or -5C.
Wheelchair curling began in Europe in the late 1990s and in North America in 2002. The first World Wheelchair Curling Championships was held in Sursee, Switzerland in 2002, and was won by the host nation who beat Canada 7 - 6 in the final. It debuted as a Paralympic sport at the 2006 Winter Paralympics in Torino. Canada won the gold medal, beating Great Britain 7-4 in the final. GB skip Frank Duffy, with the final stone, had a wide open hit of a Canadian stone in the four foot to win the game, but he missed.