Russia’s victory at the 2015 World Wheelchair Curling Championship was their second world title in three years. It also happened to be Russia’s second title in history. Their success in February makes the No. 41moment in the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Top 50 Moments of 2015.
“After winning the World Championship, I felt the pride for my team, for my teammates individual performance and our team spirit,” Russia’s skip Andrey Smirnov said.
“When we won our first title [in 2012], we were hoping for success, good luck and victory, not realising how difficult it may be to win the World Championship. This time we were striving to prove and consolidate our leadership becoming two times champions.”
Russia defeated China 7-4 in a match that pitted two rare faces from the World Championship final.
Canada had taken all three Paralympic gold medals since the sport debuted at the Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games. They have also won two of the last four World Championships, with Sweden, Scotland, Norway and South Korea also being in the mix of favourites.
This year, Russia made just their second finals appearance. Both times, they won gold.
“It is always more difficult to make it for the second time,” Smirnov said. “The key is the well planned schedule of trainings and competitions, stable physical and emotional conditions of the players, motivated for the win.”
Smirnov returns from the Russian team that won silver at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games – their first Paralympic appearance in the sport – where they fell to Canada 8-3.
They are aiming for a return to the finals, but competition will be stiffer as the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympics will include 12 teams compared to 10 from Sochi 2014.
“Every tournament won by the team is considered as a step for achieving a good result at the World Championship and in perspective at the Paralympic Games in PyeongChang 2018,” Smirnov said. “Together with our coaches we implement new methods of trainings and work on improving our equipment.”
China made their first finals appearance but are no strangers to the World Championships and ones to keep an eye on too down the road.
“The Chinese team being in the top division for several years is one of the best teams,” Smirnov said. “They are very well prepared and have their own style of play. Unfortunately we have a chance to meet them only at the World Championship, so this team is a dark horse for others.”
Russia’s rapid success over the last three years, especially since their first world title in 2012, has signified a new rising power in the sport.
Smirnov hopes this will give the sport more momentum in Russia.
“I think it will be a good chance to further develop wheelchair curling in Russia,” Smirnov said after the Championship win. “We have a lot of new facilities opening and new people who are starting to play so we believe this will be good for the sport in our homeland.”
The IPC is counting down the top 50 moments of 2015 every day until 31 December. More information can be found at the IPC’s website.