Curling: A sport for all

A traditional Scottish sport for wheelchair users is gaining new momentum: Precision and team tactics are essential.

This traditional Scottish sport using a stone and a broom can finally be played by wheelchair users in Germany. Whether old or young, fat or slim, able to walk or a wheelchair user - anyone can play curling. Although wheelchair curling is included in the 2006 Paralympics, its progress has been slow in Germany. Previously, there were just a handful of players who were forced to forge links with Swiss competitors for training and competitions.

A popular sport in Switzerland

In Switzerland, this wheelchair sport on ice is relatively widespread, with the Swiss team taking second place in World Championships last year. The DRS and DCV (German curling association) have now joined forces in an attempt to establish this new sport in Germany. The objective of the game is to place eight granite stones closer to the midpoint of a circle than your opponents in each round (end). The target circle (house) is located at the end of a 43-meter long stretch of ice, demanding great precision from the players. The biggest difference in the rules in comparison with the able-bodied sport is the sweeping ban.

This means that wheelchair curlers need to shoot far more accurately, since they cannot influence the path of the stone by sweeping. The heavy 20 kg polished stone can by pushed in the correct direction by hand or using a kind of arm extension (extender). Players do not need excessive strength for this since the momentum of the granite stone makes it appear to glide over the ice almost on its own. While a player takes his or her shot, the wheelchair stands securely on the ice and can also be held by team mates.

Thinking ahead and teamwork

The sport is often referred to as "Chess on ice". The team leader (skip) needs to think several moves ahead to give his or her team the correct tactical instructions. It is by no means rare for a game lasting several hours to be decided on the last stone. Curlers need to have strong nerves. A team generally consists of four players, including at least one tetraplegic and one team member of the opposite sex."You have to experience the attraction of curling for yourself," said Jens Jäger, captain of the German team, enthusiastically. "I like the friendly atmosphere, in particular between different countries, as well as the demands of the sport in terms of strategy, precision, concentration and teamwork." Jens Jäger and his team would be very happy about new talent in German wheelchair curling, not least in view of the planned German Championships in December 2004. The four players hope to take part in the forthcoming World Championships. Anyone who would like to try wheelchair curling should wear warm clothes and make sure they have good brakes. Apart from these requirements, anyone can play curling!

Source: Deutscher Rollstuhlsportverband