P.E.I. wheelchair curler seeking teammates
'It's the same sport, it's not much of an adaptation at all.'
When Janice Gillis got in a car accident four years ago, she found out she wouldn't walk again.
Today, Janice uses a wheelchair to get around, but she says she wasn't going to let her injury stop her from trying new things — or re-learning how to do the things she loves.
So, she's trying wheelchair curling.
"I used to curl in high school, so I was quite an avid curler when I was younger," Gillis said.
"It's the same sport, it's not much of an adaptation at all."
Wheelchair curling is a sport at the Paralympic games, and while some people do play on P.E.I., Gillis hopes more people will get involved.
"It's really great to be able to get out and do some winter sport because obviously the snow is a big impediment for people with wheelchairs, so it's nice to stay active and do something like this."
ParaSport and Recreation P.E.I. hosted a curling training event in partnership with Spinal Injury P.E.I. in Cornwall on Sunday, for Islanders who use wheelchairs and for those who are visually impaired.
Curling trainers ran skills clinics for experienced and first-time curlers, teaching them modified techniques that can be used from a seated position, such as using special sticks to throw the stone toward their target.
Sarah Fullerton is an occupational therapist and curling trainer who was showing participants how to throw their rocks.
She said wheelchair or visually impaired curling is all about adapting the game to needs of each player. She added in some cases, this means putting brightly coloured markers on the target to help people aim or anchoring a wheelchair to the ice so a person can use their upper body strength to throw their rock down the ice.
"We really focus on including people and not focusing on what they can't do, but rather focusing on what they can do," Fullerton added.
"At the end of the day if people are just coming out and trying it and learning about the sport, that's a big success," Fullerton said.
"There's been lots of smiles today so it's just great to see them out and having fun."
Goal to grow the sport
Cathleen MacKinnon, program coordinator at ParaSport and Recreation P.E.I. said they're hosting the event to raise awareness around the different sports and activities the group offers for Islanders with disabilities.
She added that the organization used to offer regular wheelchair curling programs at the Cornwall Curling Club, but found it hard to get enough people to come out and play.
"It can be for everybody, whether they be visually impaired or mobility impaired," McKinnon said.
"We're hoping that in years to come we continue to offer this and hopefully start running a program again."
Fullerton said she's also trying to raise awareness surrounding the sport, in the hopes of getting enough people involved to one day form a provincial team.
"I think it would be great to someday be able to get four individuals together for a wheelchair curling team from P.E.I. or a visually impaired curling team," Fullerton said.
"There are national events for both of those categories of curling and we haven't had a team … It would be great to someday get that going for P.E.I."
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