I received a release today announcing the start of the World Wheelchair Championships this Saturday in Sursee, Switzerland. Canada’s team will be skipped by Gerry Austgarden.
He takes over for Chris Daw, who has “withdrawn from competition.”
I have to admit that I haven’t followed the goings-on in wheelchair curling as closely as I should, but there seems to be some mystery in Daw’s withdrawal. There was a good column in the last issue of Sweep about it with some cryptic comments about Daw’s absence.
Daw is about the only name in Wheelchair curling that many fans are really familiar with. I’ve interviewed him a couple of times and he seemed like a fine chap. He, of course, led Canada to the gold at the 2006 Paralympics in Turin.
When I first went to watch wheelchair curling, it was back about five or six years ago at the Toronto Cricket Club and I was told at that time that there were only a few teams in the entire country. I know it's grown since then. The competition is serious these days and more and more clubs are making their ice accessible to wheelchairs. It seems as if the sport has just taken off.
There’s even some controversy these days with Big Jim Armstrong – one of my all-time favourites to cover back in the day – trying to get permission to play. As noted in Al Cameron’s fine blog, he’s suffered some debilitating ailments that have almost reduced him to a wheelchair full time. So far, however, the WCF won’t give him a pass, even though it should.
In any case, it’s great to see the sport growing. Very positive for curling.