Prince George curlers win B.C. blind championships, set to compete at Western finals
Terry Pipkey's vision has been deteriorating for three decades, and now he can barely recognize the face of the person standing in front of him.
But the longtime Prince George resident is part of a local curling club that won the B.C. Blind Curling Championship held in the Central B.C. city in early January.
Pipkey says he has no central vision, so he has to leverage his peripheral vision to win the game.
"Blind curling is quite similar to just regular curling — it's just that because of our vision loss, we have some blind spots," he said.
"We learned to adapt to the curling ice — because the ice is basically white in colour, we can see the contrast of the stones."
Pipkey is part of a long tradition of blind or partly-sighted people playing the popular Canadian sport. Curl B.C., the agency governing the development and promotion of curling in the province, said a blind curling club was established in Vancouver in 1974.
Sliding stones with a sighted guide
A curling game involves two teams of four players each. Each member of both teams alternately slides two curling stones to a "house," a set of concentric circles located on each end of the ice sheet.
After all the eight curling stones from each team have been delivered, teams with the stones closest to the centre, or "button" score points.
Normally a game consists of eight ends and lasts two hours, and the team with the highest score wins.
Curl B.C. says the main difference with blind curling is that each team has a sighted guide to help players deliver the stones. The guide may hold a broom near the player, or set a flashlight on the line of delivery, to help the player aim and release the stone.
Russell Gervais, who has played with the Prince George blind curling club for seven years, says his biggest challenge is to locate where the light comes from.
"As long as you hit the light, you're going to hit the broom at the same time," Gervais said. "I'm a very good sport too. It doesn't matter if I lose."
The Prince George team is set to represent B.C. at the Western Canada Blind Curling Championships in Winnipeg in early March.
Coach Victor Santos says he's proud of his team.
"It's actually very humbling to be with them and to see the way they shoot," he said.
"They're awesome players."