Although considered the “B-pool” teams entering the World Wheelchair Curling Championship 2016, the Norwegian and South Korean wheelchair curling teams proved they should not be underestimated ahead of PyeongChang 2018.
They clinched World silver and bronze, respectively, in February, and their surprise performances come in at No. 47 in the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Top 50 Moments of the year.
It was a rare feat to climb that high, so quickly.
The two were promoted from the B-Curling Championship in November 2015 after reaching the semi-finals. Five months later, they faced the likes of reigning world champions Russia* and defending Paralympic champions Canada in Lucerne, Switzerland.
Many would not have predicted the two former B-pool contenders would be in the running for World gold. But as it turned out, Norway and South Korea found themselves battling each other, again, for a spot in the finals.
Norway ended up defeating South Korea 7-4 but fell to Russia in the finals.
Norwegian skip Rune Lorentsen said after that match: "As I said early in the week, if we can make it to the play-offs anything can happen, and it almost did. We are satisfied with the silver medal … The whole week has been great for us, but the Russian team deserved to win, they’ve defeated us three times this week, they deserved it.”
Lorensten had credited Norway’s improvement to their National Federation’s aid in planning tournaments to get more experience and also increasing their training times and spaces at venues.
“The Curling Federation in Norway does everything for us; our training conditions are perfect, we can train as much as we like in a small club with sheets always free for us,” Lorensten said.
Norway (world champions in 2007 and 2008) have never won a Paralympic medal after three appearances.
South Korea, on the other hand, came off silver from Vancouver 2010 but failed to reach the podium at Sochi 2014.
But as hosts of the upcoming Paralympic Winter Games, and also defeating host Switzerland 6-5 for the Worlds bronze medal, South Korea carry high expectations.
Soon-Seok Seo said after his team’s bronze medal finish: “Before we came here many people helped us for this Championship. We couldn’t achieve this bronze medal without their effort. We will try our best to be a better team for the Championship in 2017.”
Both South Korea and Norway will get another chance to flex their muscles at the World Wheelchair Curling Championship 2017 which will be held in PyeongChang.
The competition will act as the Test Event for 2018 PyeongChang.
To find out more about the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2016, visit the dedicated page on the IPC’s website.
*Editor’s note: The International Paralympic Committee suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee on 7 August for its inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code (to which it is also a signatory). As a result of the suspension, Russian athletes cannot enter IPC sanctioned events or competitions, including the Paralympic Games. For further information please click here: https://www.paralympic.org/russian-paralympic-committee-suspension