Four years ago, Richard Fraser was cutting an ash tree in the woodlot on his farm near Stittsville, Ont., when he was struck by a limb. Left paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, the avid curler of 30 years thought his involvement with the sport was over. "I was paralyzed from the armpits down,” says Fraser. “My arms weren’t affected, but I never dreamed I'd be back.” That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Last week, the 55-year-old was
named a member of Canada’s newly minted wheelchair curling team. Karen (Minnie) Blachford and Chris (Thumper) Daw of London, Ont., Donald (Dinger) Beil from Point Edward, Ont., and Jim (Primo) Primavera from Toronto fill out the roster. The team is currently preparing for the World Wheelchair Curling Championships in Sursee, Switzerland (Jan. 21 to 26), the World Curling Association’s first sanctioned wheelchair event.
Curlers either lean over one side of the chair to release the rock, or use a specially designed “curling stick” to push the rock down the ice. And there is one major difference between wheelchair curling and the able-bodied version: no sweepers. “It’s completely up to the curler to gauge the proper weight and line,” says Blachford, who this year became Canada’s first paraplegic hockey referee. “Precision is key.”
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