So my counterpart Eric Eales yesterday released his thoughts on the upcoming World Wheelchair Curling Championships being held in Chuncheon, South Korea. His comments/thoughts can be found at his personal blog @ Eric Personal Blog.So to help everyone out and remind them of our give away, I thought I would share some comments on his thoughts and my own observations of what is the show case for this sport we all love.
We have ten teams competing this time with every country showing at least 1 new face in the crowd which is excellent for our sport and its future. I could spend some time telling you about why and who I think is going to make the podium but why? That is for you and moreover the players to decide it has nothing to do with me. What I would like to do is spend a short amount of time maybe giving some highlights of each team so everyone knows what each team is bringing to the ice. Ten teams – ten highlights….and I will say it is listed in WCF order as of this morning, NO RANKING happening here so please save the time and efforts from emailing me your conspiracy theories on why Chris Daw put what name where. Thank you advance.1. Canada
Well what can I say; they have to be the hands on favorites no question and no folks I am not playing favorites. You have to look at the facts. Canada by fact since the formal setting of Worlds has always been a favorite and in the foreseeable future will be. They have won most everything they have touched since first winning the Paralympic Gold in Tornio. I mean, YES a small rebuild between 2007-2008 with a skip change around and Jimmy taking the helm but the stream roller as been there since. 4 of the five players having been curling together for what 4 years now and that alone says something about what they can do. Contradictory to opinion Jim does not save this team with his last shots; this team is well balanced and most likely the most balanced team in the sport today. Hard to pick a weak position- Jim calls a game which leaves opportunity for an easy out or an extra point (or 2) no rocket science here. I mean 30 some odd years is going to give any skip an advantage. Add the point that the fifth player is a balance position player as well and you have a tough team to beat and if you do beat them review the tape and keep the rocks.2. China
Ok, here is a team take can technically out do any team. A low throwing position I am not convinced gives them any advantage but the throw is second to none. They came out of nowhere to rock the curling world just a short time ago but lack in the international experience of play and understanding of strategy which has and could keep them off the podium. With the exoduses of Dan Rafael, Canadian coach, to Italy do they have the strategically understand to go all the way?3. Italy
One of the most underrated teams out there. Like I said; Dan Rafael relocated under contract to Italy to help the AB program make some head way in the game. Recently the team understood the value of not onlywhat Dan could bring to them but also the resources Dan had available to him to help make this team once again shine. The opportunity for additional development did not totally develop for them and if they don’t make the podium watch for the heads to turn and maybe and finally they will understand the resources which are in their backyard. Be that said; and if I know Dan, this team has made some head way into becoming the power house they can be.
What to say about Korea? If any team has made the investment in preparing for these worlds it is Korea. If you understand the sport culture in Korea; you also know there is much more then medals on the line for this team. Over the years they have invested in coaching, travel and development. In 2010 they almost shocked the world by coming back from an 8-1 lead by Canada to only lose by 1. Can they do it, watch them! The team does have the ability, the technical merit and strategically understand the game BUT 2 major problems exist. EGOS, and pressure. This team has a few players which CAN let their egos get in the way of performance and the pressure to perform on home ice for the first time in history could be the down falls.5. Norway
2 time World champions they have made the big show before and can do it again. A few changes in the lineup may play a role but should be nullified by the experience Rune brings to the table as skipper. Matched second to none by Coach Thor’s ability to understand the team and keep them on track to the right times. The team is able to reach the top again.6. Russia
Investment in experience is the name of the game here. Can they make the podium, YES but is it the goal right now maybe not and they can afford it out of all the teams. Remember Russia is the only team in the pack which is guaranteed a spot in Sochi in 2014. They can afford to invest in growing the experience they need to develop to top the podium where it counts the most the Paralympics. A good friend and top level curler once said to me “It doesn’t really matter how many World Championships you win, you win the Olympics or Paralympics for that matter just once you’re remembered forever”. I don’t know about that because Randy Ferby and Colleen Jones with argue that point but if I had to win anywhere and had the time to develop the skills before I did it, I would want to win at home, don’t ya think!7. Scotland
This is a team which could perform the upset! They should be on the podium and I could go on. This team has the experience and a NEW coach in Tony Zummack. Will it make a difference, YES SIR, I say. The experiment is over and Tony has the team throwing and playing like curlers again. The expectation of throwing 70%, if this is a real goal for the team maybe the only down fall. I have seen and experienced this before and if you pay to close attention to stats and focus to much on what you should be doing rather than what you need to do could bite them. They have the talent and this talent pool has grown with the blue brothers joining the team (Ewan and Gault). They are strong and they may have Canada’s number this time around but Canada is not just going to pull up the kilt and take it. Watch for this game!8. Slovakia
So what can I say about an unknown? The team did win qualifiers but qualifiers is not worlds and any expectation of winning the worlds needs to be put in check for a first timer at this level of development in the sport. They can play, no doubt and no disrespect what so ever to the players but playing with the big boys is a whole new game and they may not be ready yet!9. Sweden
Ok, a little side story for you. My son TJ just loves these guys! I mean loves these guys. He is only 8 and every time Dad is watching or reporting on the team he watches me with a passion which can only be matched by the team itself. This is a team which is due! I mean that with the bottom of my heart and talk about a great group of just genuine nice people. I am proud to know these guys and gals and call a few of them friends. Since the beginning this team as be the most consistent next to Canada and Scotland. Jalle has the experience it takes to lead this team back onto the podium. Coming back to the game after being coach has to have changed is perspective in regards to every aspect of the game, an experience which now will have its advantages. If there is any team at the tournament I want to see perform to its full potential above the standard expectation it is this team. I guess I just jumped on the TJ train.10. USA
The USA, what can I say. I hope you all the best. Pat is a good friend of mine and I have worked with him in the past. I was even supposed to curl with him this year. Does the USA have what it takes to reach the podium? I don’t know! I wish them the best but this is the only team with a full change up. 3 out of 5 new players, new skip who and I hate to this but have to, just came off shoulder surgery not long ago. The USA program has under gone some major change and I am not just sure if the team is ready to perform to it full potential yet! I wish them the best of luck and will be cheering for you. Good luck buddy!
Well there you have it, my thoughts and you can read Eric thoughts. This should give you more than enough information to understand what the world wants to know. Don’t forget to vote for your chance to win a Timmy’s, Starbucks or VISA gift card! Vote your top 3 winners at VOTE NOW! And please remember to put your name if you actually want the card.
Best of luck to all teams! All teams here have earned the right to be there and remember this is curling so anything for anyone can happen at any time!