Wheel chair curling requires skill and strategy – and is the only Paralympic sport that comprises teams made up of both men and women. To participate, team members must have a disability to the lower half of their bodies and require a wheel chair for mobility.
How the Game is Played
Wheel chair curling works similar to shuffleboard in one way and bowling in another.
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 team member slides or throws two stones, for a total of 16 team shots.
While throwing, the wheel chair must be stationary and players can use their hands or an extender cue that connects with the stone to push the stone to the circles. No brooms are used as in curling for able bodied athletes.
For each end, the team with the most stones closest to the center wins. At the conclusion of six ends, the scores are tallied and the team with the best record is declared the winner.
Skill and Strategy
Since there is no sweeping of the ice, strategy plays a critical role in game play. 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, allowing the stone to be steered as the players desire.
This is why it takes more skill in the Paralympic sport to curl without sweeping. The person throwing the stone must calculate its distance and amount of curling.
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 -5 C.
The pebble effect is applied by an expert using water droplets. During the game, the pebbles act on the stone causing it to curl or turn. The pebbles slowly get knocked off as the game progresses thus changing the curling effect of the stone.
Ice Surface Dimensions
The ice surface is 146 feet long and approximately 16 feet wide. The 12 foot set of rings, called the house, are the target. The distance from the center, or button as it is called, to the backboard is 16 feet.
There is a line drawn that is 37 feet from the backboard and that is called the hogline. Any stone that does not even touch the house is not counted.
This article on the Paralympic sport of wheel chair curling was written by Joe and Irma Mac Millan. Visit their website on outdoor activities in Whistler, British Columbia by clicking here.
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