Russia clips Team BC in wheelchair curling

Alison Duddy, second from left, and her Team BC wheelchair curling teammates, Gary Cormack, Frank LaBounty and Vincent Miele, pose with team Russia.  Team BC were nipped 8-6 by Russia in the gold-medal match. - Conributed photo
Alison Duddy, second from left, and her Team BC wheelchair curling teammates, Gary Cormack, Frank LaBounty and Vincent Miele, pose with team Russia. Team BC were nipped 8-6 by Russia in the gold-medal match.
— image credit: Conributed photo

For Alison Duddy, losing 8-6 to Russia in the gold medal match of the 2nd Annual International Wheelchair Summer Spiel was not a disappointment.

There were just too many positives about the whole experience.

“It was memorable, fantastic, the curling, the people and the place,” Duddy said of the bonspiel hosted by the Cape Cod Curling Club in Falmouth, Mass.

Team BC, with skip Gary Cormack, third Frank Labounty from Prince George, second Vincent Miele and Duddy from Quesnel at lead, earned their way into the gold-medal match with a 5-1 record in round-robin play against teams from Quebec, Scotland, Russia the United States and a U.S./Canada team.

The only loss for Team BC in round robin action came against Russia, a 10-8 loss Duddy described as, “a nail biter.”

The gold medal match was no different, Duddy said.

Down by two in the last end, with the hammer, Team BC had a rock completely buried and looking to score two to take the match to extra ends.

“They were on the run,” Duddy said of the pickle Russia was in.

Unfortunately, the Russian skip threw curling’s version of a hail-mary pass, and with a bump here, a nick there, rocks flying everywhere, the buried Team BC stone was displaced.

“He made an amazing shot,” Duddy said.

The second loss in a week to Team Russia didn’t faze Duddy or her teammates.

“We’re happy with the way we played,” Duddy said of the Russian skip.

The tournament could have turned sour quickly for Team BC as their curling sticks didn’t make it on the same plane.

Despite using borrowed equipment on the first day of competition, the team had a good practice, which was especially reassuring for Duddy and company as they had not curled together in several months.

The losses to Russia represent the only blemish on what proved to be a week of highlights for Team BC, especially wins against Equipe Quebec and Scotland.

“Having an opportunity to redeem ourselves against Quebec, who beat us at nationals this year, was a highlight,” Duddy said.

Also at the top of the list of highlights is a win against Scotland, the current world silver medalists in wheelchair curling.

“That was a strategic win,” Duddy said.

In the seventh end, Team BC were leading by one, but as the rocks lay, Scotland could have a shot at scoring a pair to take the lead going into the final end.

Instead of trying to outscore Scotland, Team BC played to concede a single point and gained the hammer coming home with the score tied.

“It was a key decision,” Duddy said of the strategy devised in the seventh end.

In addition to enjoying the competition on the ice against Scotland, Duddy admitted they were a raucous group and fun to be around.

“We spent a lot of time with them,” Duddy said.

“Quebec too.”

The tournament also exposed Team BC to different ways of playing wheelchair curling.

Because there is no sweeping in wheelchair curling, an extra premium is put on accuracy and the weight of the throw.

Wheelchair curlers use specially made sticks to throw the rocks.

Up until now, Duddy and her teammates threw the stones from the side of their wheelchair with relatively short sticks.

The Scottish players, Duddy said, used longer sticks and delivered the stones from the front of the chair.

“That allows them to line everything up,”Duddy said.

An advantage with the longer stick, Duddy explained, is it provides more leverage, allowing players to throw the stones harder, which makes it easier to deal with slower ice and facilitates delivery from the front of the chair.

“I’m thinking about making changes to my delivery,” Duddy said.

Another positive to come out of the international bonspiel, Duddy said, was the realization Team BC could compete at the international level.

Bridesmaids at the last two Canadian championships, Team BC hope to build on their success in Cape Cod and go into the next provincial and hopefully national championships with confidence.

Given Cormack and Miele are from the Lower Mainland, LaBounty and Duddy from north-central B.C., practicing together, never mind playing, can be a challenge. The results from Cape Cod certainly gave the team confidence that despite the obstacles, they can compete and are now looking forward to more opportunities to play together as a team.

“We’re looking forward to a bonspiel in Richmond in November,” Duddy said.

“We want to play together as much as possible before the provincial championships in the New Year.”

In addition to the camaraderie of competition, Duddy and her teammates were effusive in their compliments on the efforts of the host club and their volunteers.

“They have been amazing,” Miele said.

Because of the distance between teammates, funding for travel is important. Funding for the Cape Cod bonspiel came from the B.C. Gaming and Enforcement Branch via the Richmond Centre for Disability.

“That was a big help,” Duddy said.


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