How is Wheelchair curling played?
If you have been watching the Olympic Winter Games, then you have probably been watching a lot of curling. Curling was the sport that opened the Winter Olympics and there have been matches every day for both men and women as well as mixed curling.
Curling is a sport played in a number of countries and competing at the Olympic Games are teams from Denmark, the USA, Great Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Norway, Italy, Japan, ROC, Republic of Korea, and host nation China.
If you have been enjoying the curling, then make sure you look out for the Paralympic Wheelchair curling events during the Paralympic Winter Games from 5 March. Wheelchair curling competitions take place almost every day of Beijing 2022, with the final on Saturday 12 March.
What is Wheelchair curling?
Wheelchair curling is a team sport played on ice with similar rules to its Olympic counterpart. The sport is open to male and female Para athletes with a disability affecting their lower limbs (single/double-leg amputation) or Para athletes who have substantial disability caused by, for example, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis. The sport is now practiced in 24 countries and governed by the World Curling Federation (WCF).
What are the rules of Wheelchair curling?
Wheelchair curling is played similarly as able-bodied curling using the same rocks and on the same ice, although the rocks are thrown from a stationary wheelchair and there is no sweeping.
Each Wheelchair curling team must include male and female players and a female athlete must be on the ice at all times. The team is made up of four players.
The object of the sport is to slide stones with handles across the ice, aiming for them to come to a stop on a target, called the house, which is marked by four concentric circles. The Lead delivers the first stone, and the play continues with each team memberdelivering two stones, alternating with the opposing team. Placing the stone inside the house means earning a possible point.
Two teams take turns to deliver stones down the ice attempting to get closer to the centre of the target or ‘house’ than their opponents. The team that places the most stones closest to the centre of the house wins the point.
The sport is governed by the rules of the World Curling Federation (WCF).
Are there sweepers in Wheelchair curling?
One of the main differences between able-bodied curling and Wheelchair curling is the fact that there is no sweeping in Wheelchair curling. This means that each throw of the stone must be even more precise, as there is no option to influence the speed or direction of the stone by sweeping the ice as you do in able-bodied curling.
The player’s wheelchair must be stationary during the throw and the stones can be thrown by hand or given an initial push with a cue.
When was Wheelchair curling introduced to the Paralympic Winter Games?
The first World Wheelchair curling Championship was held in January 2002 and, in March that year, the International Paralympic Committee granted official medal status to Wheelchair curling for mixed gender teams.
Wheelchair curling was first introduced to the Paralympic Winter Games at the Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games. Since its introduction, Canada has been the most dominant nation, picking up Gold in Torino in 2006, Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014.
In 2018 in PyeongChang, it was this year’s host nation China who picked up their first ever Paralympic Winter Games Gold, defeating Norway in the final with Canada picking up bronze.
Other countries to have won medals in Wheelchair curling include Great Britain, Sweden, South Korea and Russia.
China enjoyed the ideal preparation as they look to defend their title in Beijing 2022, claiming the gold in the Kuntai World Wheelchair curling Championship 2021, also held at the Ice Cube in Beijing.
Wheelchair curling at Beijing 2022
Wheelchair curling will be contested on eight out of the nine days of the Beijing Paralympic Winter Games. The competition will start on Saturday 5 March and the final will be played on Saturday 12 March, a day before the closing ceremony on Sunday 13 March.
Whilst there will be no New Zealand representation at the Games, Wheelchair curling is a great sport to watch. At the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, 60 Para athletes from 12 countries competed for the medal and it is expected that a similar number of Para athletes will compete in 2022. You can watch the Beijing 2022 Wheelchair curling on TVNZ DUKE and On Demand.
Find the programme here:
Give it a go
At this time, New Zealand does not have a Wheelchair curling programme, however, most local curling clubs welcome recreational Wheelchair curlers. Find your local club on https://www.curling.org.nz/. You can also join World Curling Academy’s free online course, Introduction to Wheelchair Curling. This course provides information, guidelines, and direction on how to get started with wheelchair curling from the perspective of curlers, coaches, and supporters.
If you’re keen to take part in winter Para sports, register with Paralympics New Zealand. Registering will provide you with tailored advice about the opportunities in your area for your impairment, as well as keeping you in touch with any future opportunities and news.