The organizing committee of the World Wheelchair Curling Qualification (WWhCQ) 2010 is busy putting the final touches to the event venue to ensure optimal playing conditions for the wheelchair curlers, when they enter the ice on the 7 November at the Kisakallio Sports Institute in Lohja, Finland.
The WWhCQ is the first landmark on the journey towards the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. At the end of this competition, the top two teams will qualify for the World Wheelchair Curling Championship 2011, which will be held in Prague, Czech Republic in February. The 2011 World Championships present the first opportunity to earn points for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Russia.
Of the 10 teams competing in the WWhCQ 2010 event (China, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia and Switzerland), the Italian, Swiss and Japanese teams are essentially the same as competed at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games earlier this years. They ranked 5th, 7th and 10th respectively.
In preparation for this year's WWhCQ, the teams from Italy, Switzerland, Japan and France attended the Third Annual Wetzikon International last weekend in Switzerland.
All of the teams performed well in their groups. Manfred Bolliger’s Swiss team came second in Group A, narrowly missing the final with France’s André Jouvent right behind in third place. In Group B, the Italians, skipped by Andrea Tabanelli, came second, while the Japanese team, with Katsuo Ichikawa taking over as skip since the Paralympics, finished top and went on to win the final 8-1 against Jens Jäger’s team from Germany who topped Group A.
The Finnish team has been training hard this season and is hoping to perform well at their home venue. Since wheelchair curling was launched in Finland in 2007, the national team has improved their international performance year on year. This autumn, the team finished third in a competition in Denmark and also beat Norway, the 2008 World Champions, in a practice game in Halden, Norway at the end of September. The team and coach are confident they can challenge the top teams this year.
The event is being held at the Kisakallio Sports Institute, a purpose-built centre about 50km west of the Finnish Capital, Helsinki. All the institute services are in close proximity and make the venue easily accessible to wheelchair curlers.
The Russian team arrived in Kisakallio on the 28 October for training, practice sessions and games against the Finnish team. The Russian coach Vladimir Shevchenko says the team has enjoyed the atmosphere of Kisakallio and finds it convenient to have all the services so close by.
The Russians have been training twice a day since their arrival and will keep training hard, after they lost two of their practice games against Finland last weekend. Shevchenko believes that the level in this year's WWhCQ will be extremely high and making it to the top two will be very challenging.
The event starts on Sunday the 7 November with 10 teams playing in a round-robin through to Thursday 11 November. The top four teams will meet in playoff games for the two qualifying places for the World Wheelchair Curling Championship 2011 on Friday 12 November.