The country’s best wheelchair curlers are rocking it out in Lower Sackville this week.
Nova Scotia has two teams in the mix as the Maritimes play host for the first time to the TSX Canadian Wheelchair Curling Championships at the Lakeshore Curling Club.
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Representing the province is Team Nova Scotia and a host club from Lakeshore.
“It’s competitive, but we have fun doing it,” said Nova Scotia skip Michael Fitzgerald.
There are more teams (10) at this competition than ever before. It makes for a tougher tournament for Fitzgerald’s team, which placed fifth at nationals last year.
“We’re going to do our best and try to build on last year’s successes,” he said.
“We feel we’ve improved, but so has the competition.”
The B.C. team won last year and is a heavy favourite this year, along with Newfoundland and Labrador.
Youngest on the Nova Scotia team, and perhaps in the tournament, is 18-year-old Nicole Durand of Eastern Passage. She got into curling more than two years ago and fell in love with it.
“I tried just about anything at that point because I hadn’t had a team sport to play,” she said.
“I’ve been in a wheelchair all my life and this is a new (sport) for me.”
It’s tough finding a wheelchair-friendly team sport, but the IWK is helping with a recreational therapist, she said.
Curling in a wheelchair can be more challenging than for able-bodied folks. Wheelchair curlers don’t throw the rocks, but push them with sticks. And there’s no “hurry hard!” sweeping in wheelchair curling.
Fitzgerald said using a stick to push the rocks actually helps with precision.
“The rocks are going to curl naturally but sweeping can straighten it out and carry it further. Our delivery has to be precise,” he said.
“You have to judge it right and you have to get a feel for the ice. The ice conditions can change and you’ve got to change with conditions.”