Alison Duddy, a two-time provincial wheelchair curling champion, has learned some new tricks and is looking forward to earning a third provincial title in Kamloops, Feb 2 – 5.
Duddy, from Quesnel, heads to the provincial championships along with skip Gary Cormack, third Gary LaBounty and second Bob MacDonald with extra confidence in her abilities following a wheelchair curling development camp in Richmond last September.
The camp was delivered by members of the Canadian national wheelchair curling team, as well as head coach Joe Rea and former coach Wendy Morgan. Duddy is confident her team can claim a third provincial title.
The camp, Duddy explained, included both on-ice and off-ice instruction on a variety of topics, including diet and exercise, game strategies, as well as delivery technique.
The latter Duddy found to be extremely useful and said she saw an immediate improvement in her delivery.
Previously, to deliver her stone, Duddy would grab one side of her wheelchair, then with her delivery stick in her free hand, lean over to the opposite side and deliver the rock.
Although awkward, the delivery style was borne of necessity because Duddy’s trunk muscles are very weak.
“If I lean forward, I fall over forward,” she explained.
The delivery technique, however, did not allow her to throw the stones with her shoulders square to the broom, the optimal position for throwing a curling stone.
So, the camp instructors made several suggestions.
“They made huge changes to my delivery system,” Duddy said.
First, a long handle was installed at the front of Duddy’s chair, which allowed her to stabilize herself and at the same time keep her shoulders square.
Second, the instructors had Duddy use a longer delivery stick which, together with having her shoulders square to the broom, allowed her to improve her alignment with her skip’s broom.
“That’s the goal for able-bodied or wheelchair curlers is to have your shoulders square to the rock,” Duddy explained.
“I love it.
“I’m looking straight down my stick and lining up with the broom and my ability to hit the broom has improved immensely.”
Off-ice, Duddy appreciated the sessions on exercise specific for wheelchair athletes, which have helped her limber up before getting on the ice.
The game strategy sessions were also very helpful, Duddy said.
Previously, Duddy, who throws lead stones, believed her role was simply to place the rock at the direction of the skip.
“The whole team has to be on board and know what’s going on and know what our strategy is going to be in various game situations,” she explained.
“If the whole team knows the strategy in a certain situation, that will benefit us.”
In addition to the invaluable information gathered at the wheelchair curling development camp, Duddy was also impressed with the fact the camp was led by the very curlers she wants to replace on the national team.
“It’s not very often you see the top athletes helping the people that are trying to take their job,” she said.
“It was a fantastic camp, I took a lot from it.”
Duddy now hopes to harness what she learned at the development camp at this weekend’s provincial championships in Kamloops.
The camp has certainly provided Duddy with extra tools to be successful.
There is only one other team registered for the provincial playdown, but the team is packed with plenty of curling acumen including several national and international titles.
Skip for the opposing team, Darryl Neighbour, gold medalist at the Torino Olympics, is on the national team and was one of the instructors at the development camp as was Sonja Gaudet, gold medalist at the Torino and Vancouver Winter Olympics who will be throwing third stones for the opposing team.
Gerry Austgarden is pencilled at second and he was part of the gold-medal wheelchair curling team at the 2006 Torino Olympics and lead, Corine Jensen is a former Canadian champion.
But Duddy’s team also has top-notch experience.
Cormack is a Paralympic and Canadian gold medalist, LaBounty, of Prince George is a three-time Canadian champion, and MacDonald, new to the team at second, has played at the provincial level and Duddy is a Canadian silver medalist and two-time provincial champion.
“We’re up against some stiff competition,” Duddy said of the Neighbour rink.
“It should be interesting, but I feel confident.
“With each practice session I’m feeling more and more confident.”
To follow the end-by-end action visit www.playdowns.com/curlbc.