February 28, 2009
Canada's Jim Armstrong, just two years into his revitalized curling career and commanding the national wheelchair curling team for the first time, won his country's first World Wheelchair Curling Championship title with a 9-2 win over Swedish veteran Jalle Jungnell.
Canada's debut gold in the fast-growing Paralympic discipline comes after dual fourth-place finishes in 2008 and 2007, and a sixth-place finish in 2005.
In 2006, Canada, led by skip Chris Daw, surprised Great Britain to win Paralympic gold at Pinerolo, Italy.
"It feels fantastic," said Armstrong. "It's been a big learning curve, and this is my first big event of consequence. We struggled early, and as the week went on and on we got stronger and stronger. The team played great."
Armstrong, a dentist from nearby Richmond, took advantage of shaky opening stones from Sweden to post a 3-0 lead after three ends.
In the fourth end, Canada built a solid end and counted two with Armstrong's final throw still to come. After debating a double-takeout for five - as opposed to a draw for three - the six-time Brier competitor tried a tap for four, but missed.
But it was all Canada the rest of the way, with Sweden repeatedly scrambling to stay in the game. In the sixth end, Jungnell made a nervy come-around tap for one against five Canadian counters.
Jungnell, the 2006 Paralympic bronze medallist, played the entire event with just a four-person team. Second Bernt Sjoberg developed kidney problems in Sweden and couldn’t make the trip. Alternate Patrik Burman was pressed into full-time action, and the team came together quickly.
"Obviously it is very great for us to go this far," said Jungnell. "One difference (today) is that Canada played really, really well."
The silver marked Jungnell's highest-ever finish in six major competitions.
"Bronze, silver... what's next?" Jungnell grinned.
In the bronze medal game, Germany's Jens Jaeger, the round robin leader, recovered from two earlier playoff losses to beat Augusto Perez of the United States by a 6-4 count.
In the eighth end, Jaeger appeared to miss his final runback attempt but his stone took an alternative angle and careened off the U.S. counter, leaving Germany with a score of two and the win.
Jaeger celebrated long and hard before collapsing in tears in the arms of his teammates. It was Germany's first-ever podium finish, following a 13th-place finish at the 2005 worlds.
Team USA, which finished fourth, won bronze at the 2008 Worlds in Sursee, Switzerland, marking the first time that country made a podium appearance.
The World Wheelchair Championship was the first curling competition hosted at the new Vancouver Olympic Centre, which will play host to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games curling competition and the 2010 Paralympic Wheelchair Curling competition.
With the conclusion of the 2009 WWhCC, three years of qualifying competition for the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games has come to an end.
Canada, as host nation, will receive an automatic entry.
The remaining nine places will be offered to the nine National Paralympic Committees of the Member Associations of the World Curling Federation who have gained the most qualifying points from the World Wheelchair Curling Championships held in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
WCF 2010 PARALYMPIC QUALIFICATION
1. Norway - 28 points
2. Canada - 26 pts*
3. United States - 20.5 pts
4. Korea - 19 pts
5. Scotland / Great Britain - 18 pts**
6. Sweden - 16 pts
7. Switzerland - 14 pts
8. Germany - 8 pts
9. Italy - 8 pts
10. Japan - 7.5 pts
* Canada as host country has guaranteed qualification
** Points for Great Britain are gained by Scotland at the WWhCC
2009 WWhCC FINAL STANDINGS
GOLD - Canada (Jim Armstrong) - 8-4
SILVER - Sweden (Jalle Jungnell) - 7-4
BRONZE - Germany (Jens Jaeger) - 8-4
4. United States (Augusto Perez) - 5-6
5. Scotland (Michael McCreadie) - 5-5
6. Korea (Haksung Kim) - 5-5
7. Norway (Rune Lorentsen) - 5-6
8. China (Haitao Wang) - 5-6
9. Italy (Andrea Tabanelli) - 4-7*
10. Switzerland (Manfred Bolliger) - 2-7*
* Must qualify for 2011 WWhCC