It’s not daily somebody will get to speak to, not to mention compete towards, an Olympian.
Members of the Portage prep curling crew have been a part of the fortunate few to do the latter Wednesday because the Warriors girls and boys groups competed towards the eight members of this yr’s United States Wheelchair Curling crew in exhibition matches the Portage Curling Club.
The video games helped spark a five-day coaching journey for the U.S. crew within the “Curling Capitol of the World” by which they’ll additionally maintain an open home on Thursday, in addition to wheelchair bonspiel over the weekend. The exclusivity of the Warriors’ likelihood to compete towards the nation’s finest didn’t go unnoticed by Portage boys coach Mike Charles.
“That’s extremely special and I don’t know if we’ll ever have the chance to do this again,” Charles stated of the occasion.
It’s one thing U.S. Wheelchair head coach Rusty Schieber, a Portage space native, was equally enthusiastic about.
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“It’s wonderful to bring these guys in and our traditional training site is Chaska, Minn., which is wonderful and you go to Chaska and you have everything you want in a multi-million dollar city; it’s a fantastic place to go,” Schieber stated.
“But to bring these guys down to Portage, a town I’m so closely associated with, is pretty darn cool.”
“I get to sleep in my own bed, which is nice, but the other thing is you get to show them how a small community like this, with a four-sheet curling club, can produce the ice that very closely emulates what we’re going to see in Beijing. It’s just wonderful having them here.”
That near-identical ice to what the crew will see in simply three quick months in Beijing is simply one of many causes the U.S. National Team visited the center of Columbia County. As massive of a draw because the quickness and the bend the four-sheet membership’s ice creates, the brand new addition of the Portage Curling Club’s wheelchair ramp performed simply as integral a job.
“The ramp, if they didn’t have a ramp, we wouldn’t be here, to be quite honest,” Schieber stated. “And with them having the ramp that was one of the reasons we wanted to come.”
“One that we have the ramp and can come and play on the fantastic ice in Portage. And No. 2, if we can help you gain some attention for your ramp, we’ll do what we can, and for the fundraising, it turned out they just killed it here in the community raising the money for the ramp.”
Some robust competitors was one other draw for Schieber and his crew, which incorporates 5 different Wisconsinites together with Shawn Sadowski (Portage), Dave Samsa (Green Bay), Matt Thums (Wausau), Dan Rose (Tomah) and Laura Dwyer (Oconomowoc).
Schieber admitted that when folks first hear concerning the Paralympics, they instantly leap to the considered the Special Olympics.
“A very good program, but totally different; this is competition and championships, while the wonderful goal for the Special Olympics is participation,” he stated. “These are Olympians and Paralympians.”
And with ales than stellar wheelchair curling program at present, Schieber has employed a method of taking part in “high performance camps.”
“Since the beginning of the year, the emphasis on the camp has been: competition. The best way to get it? Play against able bodied teams, playing their game and going out and beating them,” he stated.
That was the case once more Wednesday as the 2 rinks — one comprised of Thums, Steve Emt, Sams and Oyuna Uranchimeg, whereas the opposite led by Sadowski alongside Pam Wilson, Rose and Dwyer — bested the Warriors’ varsity girls and boys groups.
Despite popping out on the quick finish, it was nothing for the youngsters to hold their heads about in Charles’ thoughts.
“They lost, but being beaten by a better team isn’t a loss in my book. It’s a learning experience and life is full of those,” he stated. “They were gracious enough to curl against us tonight and I think it was great; the kids handled themselves very well out there on the ice.”
For Charles, that’s the wonder within the sport of curling itself.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re able bodied or a Paralympian, the game is played the same. It’s strategy and about making your shots,” he stated. “I’m still in awe watching them make their shots, basically just with arm movement … It’s really amazing watching them curl and the kids were having a fun time out there with them.”
Follow Sean Davis on Twitter @SDavis_PDR or contact him at 608-745-3512.