The World Wheelchair Curling Championship has concluded at the "Ice Cube" Curling Center in Sochi. The competition marked the season’s first Sochi 2014 Paralympic test event and welcomed the world's top 10 curling teams to the next Paralympic Winter Games host city.
The event, which came to an end on 23rd February 2013, was held by the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee with the support of the World Curling Federation.
The World Wheelchair Curling Championship was the first Test Event to be held at the "Ice Cube" Curling Center, which will host the curling and the wheelchair curling competitions at the 2014 Games. Over nine days, over 70 members of staff fr om the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee were able to test out all of the venue's services and functions during the tournament which was a debut not just for Sochi but for the whole of Russia.
The whole Championship – from group stage to finals – was intensely competitive, as witnessed by the large number of tie-breaks which determined the teams' final standings in the tournament table.
The gold medal final was contested by Sweden and Canada, who had also been the top performers during the group stage. The maple leaves, seen as the tournament favorites having been crowned champions at two Paralympic Winter Games, clinched victory by a one-goal margin, winning 4-3, and reclaiming the title of world champions which Russia had wrested from them the previous year.
The tournament hosts found themselves out of the running for a medal this time round, losing out to China in a decisive tie-break for a top-four finish. In the match for the third place, the Chinese managed to earn victory over the USA and in doing so won their second World Championship bronze in a row.
The event held extra significance given all the ten countries taking part in the World Championship earned the right to compete at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. Alongside the five teams above, Finland, Korea, Norway, Slovakia and Great British (following Scotland’s World Championship participation) have confirmed their place at Sochi 2014.
The 2013 World Wheelchair Curling Championship Sportsmanship award was presented to the Swedish skip, Jalle Jungnell.
Dmitry Chernyshenko, President and CEO of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, said:
"The World Wheelchair Curling Championship was the "Ice Cube" Curling Center’s debut test event. The event was a significant milestone, given we both reached the highest standard by hosting a top World Championship tournament and marked the season’s first international Paralympic test event.
"The tournament featured international athletes from the 10 leading world wheelchair curling countries and showed that the team responsible for hosting the event has the ability to work smoothly together.
"I would like to thank all the competitors and World Curling Federation representatives for helping to make the tournament so exciting and providing us with such positive feedback on our curling arena. We are now carefully analyzing our work and getting ready to host the World Junior Curling Championship, the next Test Event at the venue."
Kate Caithness, President of the World Curling Federation: "We are very happy with the "Ice Cube" and conditions that we have here. It is a test event but everything seems to be working well."
Jim Armstrong, skip of Canada: "It was a great final game, probably one of the best wheelchair curling games ever. Very entertaining, the ice is very close, very exciting, really what that sport needs. It speaks well for the facility, it’s new, and I really think Sochi should be proud of it. The volunteers are absolutely unbelievable. It was a tremendous experience and I really look forward to coming back here next year."
Jalle Jungnell (Sweden): "The venue is absolutely superb, I think it’s perfect for Olympics and Paralympics. You can feel the atmosphere, next year is going to be really exciting. This is a very nice award for me as my fellow players from other countries voted for me. It is a big honor to get it, I am proud."
Steve Brown (USA), coach: "I’ve been to all the World Wheelchair Curling Championships since 2005, and Sochi, Russia did themselves very proud, this is one of the most wonderful championships ever to be held. It’s going to be a great venue for the Paralympics next year. It was just a wonderful week, the ice was excellent, the facility inside is great, we are looking forward to coming back."
Anton Batugin, senior coach of the Russian team: "This was a Test Event not only for the stadium and the staff, but also for the athletes. We now know exactly what to expect next year, which will be hugely beneficial to us. Even the significant media attention was something our athletes and teams were not accustomed to, but now they have got this experience under their belts and next year they won't let any of that knock them off their stride.
"We had also never played in front of a crowd before or had volunteers to hand – we aren't used to having people help us or cheer for us! That really was a big help and this support next year will be a great boost. In terms of gaining experience, the Championship was very useful."
Svetlana Pakhomova, member of the Russian national team: "We feel really comfortable playing here. There were welcoming people on all sides, everyone supported us and looked after us wh erever we went. We're at home here, and naturally you feel more comfortable when you're at home. The stadium is magnificent. It just took our breath away when we saw it. We had never seen an arena like it before – it's remarkable, simply outstanding."
Notes to the Editor
The "Ice Cube" Curling Center is the smallest, but probably one the most comfortable sports venues in the Olympic Park. The design of the venue is minimalistic and it symbolizes democracy and accessibility as well as festivity, which are characteristics of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The name has associations with the architectural form of the venue, which is 19.3 m high and 30 m x 60 m in width and length.