Local athlete Norm Green will be travelling to Ottawa Feb. 7 to compete in a national curling championship like no other. A resident of St. Clements, he will be skipping the team in its third bid for a national title alongside the other K-W Blind Curlers at the Canadian White Cane Blind Curling Championships, a five-day national competition.
Joining Green, who has curled for more than 15 years, are lead Jim Stephens, second Carrie Speers and vice Len Cooper.
Stephens is a B1 classification, someone with no vision. Each team must have a B1, a B2, who has less than five per cent vision, and a B3, who has five to 10 per cent vision.
Green, who is totally blind in one eye and has four per cent vision the other, is considered a B2 after he lost his vision in 1992 when he fell 18 feet onto his head from a catwalk at work. He can see enough to sweep, but when curling he can’t see the rock past the second hog line.
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Green was actively involved in sports his whole life, acting as a referee for many years before losing his vision.
“My whole life changed after the accident.”
Now after reaching the provincial level of competition, the team is facing another hurdle, the national championships which they have attended twice before. Green and his crew at the K-W Granite Club curl against sighted people on Sunday afternoons and have competed in the provincial championships several times. Two years ago they travelled to Ottawa for the first time, but lost in the semi-final round after defeating the eventual winners, Team British Columbia, in round-robin play. Last year they came away with a silver medal, and this year the team is hoping for their big win.
“We have worked our way up, so I hope we can get to the top of the ladder now,” said Green.
Granite members Wendy Simpson and Ralph Fritz will be going to Ottawa as the coach and guide respectively. The team can have one sighted person to act as a guide. The guide describes the shot to the curler and ensures they’re lined up correctly in the hack, but they aren’t allowed to sweep, call the line, or touch the curler once they’ve started to deliver the rock.
“The guide is able to give us a bit of guidance, she helps us differently based on our level of sight,” Green explained. “For the completely blind they will say ‘Come to my voice. A little to the right … I like it.’”
Green’s wife, Carol, will be accompanying the team to Ottawa – she almost never misses one of his matches, said Green.
“It’s amazing to see the blind curlers,” she said. “It’s amazing what they can do. Anybody with a disability needs something to do, they can’t just sit at home and this has been great.”