A dozen teams chase their Paralympic dreams in PyeongChang - Part Two

  • Team Switzerland's Claudia Huettenmoser and Felix Wagner Photo © WCF Céline Stucki

As the countdown to the Paralympic Winter Games 2018, being held in Gangneung, Republic of Korea, continues, we look at four more of the 12 teams competing in the Gangneung Curling Centre from Saturday 10 March until Saturday 17 March.

All of these Member Associations (MAs) earned their place at the Games through the sum of their qualification points gained at the World Wheelchair Curling Championships (WWhCCs) held in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Let's meet the teams:

Team Switzerland

Team Switzerland - above - © WCF / Céline Stucki

Switzerland is a country with great curling traditions, and those traditions equally apply to the Paralympic discipline of wheelchair curling. Switzerland hosted the inaugural world championship in 2002, winning gold on home ice. The Swiss medalled three more times at WWhCCs, winning silver in 2004 and 2007,
and bronze in 2005.

However, since 2007, Switzerland have struggled to find world championship success, and their first Paralympic podium finish is also yet to come. They have taken part in two Games, finishing sixth in 2006 followed by a tenth placed finish in 2010.

Third, Claudia Huettenmoser, is the only player with Paralympic experience, while skip Felix Wagner, second Marcel Bodenmann, lead Beatrix Blaeuel and alternate Hans Burgener will all be making their debuts on Paralympic ice in PyeongChang.

The team earned their berth at the Games by finishing fourth in 2016 and eighth in 2017's WWhCC.

Felix Wagner led the team in both events and is looking forward to the new challenge in the Republic of Korea:

"The Paralympic tournament will be a new and exciting experience for our team. For the first time 12 teams will participate and the round robin will be a great physical and mental challenge. Our team has worked hard and will be well prepared to travel to PyeongChang. We want to play our potential from game to game and hope it will be enough for the semi-finals."

Team Finland

Team Finland - above - © WCF / Céline Stucki

Finland qualified for the Paralympic Winter Games by winning a bronze medal at the WWhCC in 2015 in front of their home crowd in Lohja and finishing tenth in both the 2016 and 2017 championships.

In PyeongChang their team will be skipped by Sari Karjalainen. She - along with husband and fourth player Markku Karjalainen - is one of the most experienced wheelchair curling players from Finland. The couple competed in all of the qualification WWhCCs and also in Finland's Paralympic debut in Sochi in 2014, where they finished tenth.

Sari Karjalainen prepares for the Games with a positive attitude:

"The world's north most wheelchair curling team's preparation for the Paralympics has progressed well after some challenges in the spring and some health problems. Playing tournaments have given us self-confidence and trust in our skills. If we have a good day, we can beat any team, but in a bad day we can lose to any team. So, we wish that in PyeongChang we get more of those good days. We will enjoy the Games in South Korea with relaxed and good feeling and will enjoy the spirit and atmosphere of the Paralympics. The target for our team is to show our capabilities and the joy of playing. If we succeed in that, not even the brightest coloured medal is impossible."

The Karjalainen spouses will make up the Finnish Paralympic team along with third Yrjo Jaaskelainen, lead Vesa Leppanen and alternate Riitta Sarosalo.

Team Slovakia

Team Slovakia - above - © WCF / Céline Stucki

Slovak wheelchair curling is one of the fastest growing in the international field. The discipline was introduced in the country in the 2006, and they made their first world championship appearance in 2012 with an impressive fourth place finish. Since then they have taken part in all WWhCCs, with the exception of the 2017 competition. In qualifying for the Paralympic Winter Games they finished fourth and ninth - in the 2015 and 2016 world championships respectively.

Three of their Paralympic team members - skip Radoslav Duris, fourth Dusan Pitonak and lead Monika Kunkelova - participated in the Games and finished sixth four years ago, while second Imrich Lyocsa and alternate Peter Zatko will experience the Paralympic atmosphere for the first time in the Gangneung Curling Centre.

Team Sweden

Team Sweden's Ronny Persson - above - © WCF / Alina Pavlyuchik

Sweden is the only nation with more Paralympic experience than appearances in Paralympic qualification championships. The Swedes were the last team to qualify for the Games, finishing in 12th place in the qualification rankings, having earned a ninth place finish at the world championships in 2015, while not qualifying for the WWhCCs in 2016 or 2017.

Their Paralympic results however, show how great a tradition wheelchair curling has in the country: they have taken part in every Games, winning bronze twice, in 2006 in Turin and in 2010 in Vancouver, while finishing seventh in 2014 in Sochi.

This year's national squad consists of four Paralympic debutants - skip Viljo Petersson-Dahl, third Ronny Persson, and second Mats-Ola Engborg - while lead Kristina Ulander and alternate Zandra Reppe made their first appearance at the Games in Sochi.

Check back here, in the coming weeks, to find out more about the remaining four teams that will compete in the wheelchair curling tournament in the Republic of Korea.

To follow the build-up to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, follow us on Twitter, Instagram (@worldcurling) and Facebook (/WorldCurlingFederation) and use the hashtags: #Roadto2018 #curling

Written by Mariann Bardocz-Bencsik