Wheelchair Curling with OI

Interview with Michal Daszkowski – curling player with OI 

Can you tell a little about yourself?
I’m 47 years old and live in Warsaw, Poland. At the moment I’m living alone in my pretty accessible flat. I am using a wheelchair for almost my every daily activity. I am working as a freelancer (IT-system and network administrator). 

How did you get into wheelchair curling?
Some time ago my old friend invited me to come and watch him exercise wheelchair curling. I was not sure if it will be interesting for me, but I was curious enough so I decided to see. I met some nice people who were seriously involved. And also the coach was a very special person: friendly, wise and with perfect attitude to other people. She showed us how much fun curling can be!

Please tell us about the world championship in Finland
The championships took place in December 2019 in Lohja (Finland). These were the championships of group B – it’s the ‘second’ group, because in curling rules are a bit similar to ice hockey. In group A there are the strongest teams. So after championships of group B, three best teams will be promoted to group A.

In group B currently there are 15 teams. All information, including teams and schedule you can find here

What is very important, I am not the only OI person in our team! Together with me is also Joanna Kozakiewicz, so 40% of current Polish National Team in wheelchair curling are people with OI. 

Unfortunately, this competition was not very successful for us, but we expected that. For almost the entire team it was the first time in World Championships – very stressful and a real challenge. Additionally, we had two really strong teams in our group: Sweden and Canada. Especially Canada was an extremely tough competitor – three members of their team are Paralympic champions!

But it was a really great experience and we learned a lot. People playing curling are very friendly and this is some kind of big “family”, so it was a lot of fun. Despite of our results, we returned in very good mood. Now we know what to change and improve, and hopefully next year will be much better!

What are the requirements for people who want to do this kind of sports?
This is very good question! Because, unlike many other sports, it’s not very demanding in terms of physical fitness. Of course, you must have arms strong enough to push the stone on ice, so probably not for people, who need an electric wheelchair to move. But I believe that almost every person, who is using a manual wheelchair, is able to play wheelchair curling! Main necessary skills are: intelligence (!), ability to concentrate and perfection in movements. And also you don’t need to be very young – this is a sport both for teenagers and people 70+.

Polish national team wheelchair curling
Michal (nr. 2 from the right) with his curling team

You are member of the Polish national team. How do you manage training?
Unfortunately during last year we had very serious problems with covering costs of our trainings. So we were able to exercise usually only once a week. It’s not enough. I hope it will change in the next months and years.

What are the most challenging issues in this kind of sports?
Money and lack of places to play and exercise. In Poland there is only one professional curling hall which is in Lodz, more than 100 km from Warsaw (most of us are from Warsaw). There are some other places, but usually not so good – ice surface for curling must be very special: perfectly flat and smooth. It’s really hard to prepare it and costs a lot. 

Do you get any subsidy, for instance for traveling to events?
This is the main problem for us! The situation in the Polish Curling Association is horrible for several years. Currently the association has really huge debts and no money at all. So we had no help from them. Not only for wheelchair curling – all Polish teams need to collect money for participation in competitions.  

We get some money from sponsors, some directly from Polish Ministry of Sports and the rest from crowdfunding. It was amazing that people are so helpful, but it shouldn’t work in this way. This is olympic and paralympic sport!

Which was the most exciting moment for you?
In October 2019 we had very important competitions in Poland. First (unofficial) Polish Championships. And it was decided that the winning team will be nominated as Polish National Team for World Championships. In the final match, we met with the oldest and Polish wheelchair curling team “Culani”. We had never won against them before. This time was our day: we were playing very calmly and finally we won 6:3. It was a really great moment for all of us and me personally. But I do believe that there will be a lot of similar and better moments in the future!

What would you recommend to people with OI who are interested in doing this?
Quickly check where is the nearest curling club in your country, contact them and ask when you can come and try! And just do it! In my opinion, this is absolutely perfect discipline for many people with OI.

Interviewed by Stefanie Wagner, OIFE secretary 

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