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The Rockford native, who started curling seriously two years ago, will be one of five athletes representing Team USA at the World Wheelchair Curling Championship in Chuncheon City, South Korea, this month.
Team USA needs to finish in the top seven to qualify for next year’s world competition, which would put the team on target for a possible berth in the 2014 Sochi, Russia, Paralympics Games.
“We’re planning to medal and win the gold medal,” Kelly said. “It’s been a goal, and to be in a position to make that happen is awesome.”
For Kelly, 39, “being in position” meant adjusting to being paralyzed from the chest down in a 2004 car accident in Ohio.
After a long process of mental and physical recovery, Kelly started participating in wheelchair softball. Later, he discovered wheelchair curling and joined the Madison Curling Club under Steve Brown, who is a former Olympic coach.
As a former swimmer and cross country runner at East, Kelly said he enjoys staying active and competing.
“It’s good to get up and have something to do,” said Kelly, who skated as a child at the Riverview Ice House. “It gives you something to work for. It’s great to get into a sport with other people that have similar disabilities because you grow and feed off each other’s experiences. You learn things and that’s what is cool about it. It’s not just you versus the world anymore.”
Kelly’s dedication to the sport takes him away from Rockford as he travels twice a week to Madison for practices and to participate in league games. Curling requires pebbled ice and Madison is the closest handicapped-accessible curling ice facility.
|Tim Kelly works out at the curling facility in Madison, Wis., |
where he practices twice a week.
“There is a lot of strategy,” he said. “A lot of offensive and defensive play depending on position and where you are in the game. Offensive strategy means you are putting more stones in the house rather than defensive, which means taking out their stones.”
Kelly’s selection to Team USA came after extensive national tryouts based on individual skill testing, game participation, strategy assessment and team compatibility.
Team USA will compete for gold against national teams from Scotland, Norway, Russia, China, Korea, Sweden, Slovakia, Italy and Canada, the two-time Paralympics Champions and defending world champions.
Team USA will open with Korea on Sunday, Feb. 19.
“We’re there to win,” Kelly said.
Reach staff writer Brenda Young at 815-987-1388 or email@example.com.