Wheelchair curling made its Paralympic debut at the Turin 2006 Paralympics, and a few months after the Turin Games, the first International Wheelchair Bonspiel – Canadian Open was hosted by the Richmond Centre for Disability.
This November marked the 12th year for this acclaimed wheelchair curling event, which was once again held at Richmond Curling Centre. The event is one of several large North American wheelchair curling competitions that take place annually in mid to late November.
Eleven teams from across Canada and three teams from Korea competed for the gold medal from November 14 to 18. The teams featured a number of athletes with experience competing both nationally and internationally, as well as a number of Paralympic medallists.
“The event this year went really smoothly,” said Richmond Centre for Disability Executive Director Ella Huang. “We had a record high of 14 teams.” As a non-curler, Huang was excited by the complexity of the sport and the tight competition.
Jim Armstrong’s team of Darryl Neighbour, Collinda Joseph and Reid Mulligan won the gold medal with a 4-1 win over Team Canada 2 (Mark Ideson, Ina Forrest, Jamie Anseeuw, Marie Wright, Dennis Thiessen) in the final. Neighbour is from Richmond, and also won the event last year with Armstrong on Team Adanac. Both Neighbour and Armstrong have represented BC nationally several times.
Team Canada 1 (Gil Dash, Jon Thurston, Ellis Tull, Alison Duddy, Darwin Bender) won the bronze medal with a 5-3 win over Team Korea Rookies B (Baek Hyejin, Kwon Sungwoo, Lee Youngsuk, Lee Hyeonchul) in the third place draw.
Over 40 volunteers helped at the event as rock cleaners. Curl BC Member Services Manager Melissa Sim and Curl BC Education and Camps Coordinator Kim Dennis ran the volunteer training, which included a Learn to Curl session.
The Richmond Centre for Disability is already looking forward to the 13th Annual International Wheelchair Bonspiel – Canadian Open, which will take place in November 2019.