B.C.’s biggest prize for blind curling will be in 100 Mile House from Jan. 10 to 11 and the skip of the home team is hoping to win it all.
“We’d love to win it again,” said Jim Vinson, one of the three permanent members of the team. “It’s been going really, the rest of my team has been doing really well lately. Myself. I’m hit and miss on how good I am lately.”
It could be the third time Vinson wins the West Coast Blind Curling Association Provincial Playdowns since the team was founded nine years ago.
Vinson was instrumental in getting it started, being the only person on the team to have previously played curling.
He started in Smithers before he became legally blind during the 70s when the sport was pretty popular. Vinson said everybody was curling, including his and his wife’s coworkers.
Vinson curled for four seasons in Smithers before stopping. He said he wasn’t too sure why he stopped other than doing other things.
It wasn’t until 2001, when he moved to Vancouver, that he picked the sport up again. By this time, he was legally blind.
In 1996, the curler was diagnosed with optic atrophy, where the optic nerve in the back of the eye basically dies off and stops reading signals and sending them to the brain.
It is a genetic condition that Vinson’s father had. His sister and teammate, Marilyn, also has the condition.
“It’s a totally different game,” said Vinson of blind curling and adjusting to it. “I skip, but even standing in the house with all the rocks, I can’t tell what colour they are and I’m standing right there, so I have to remember what they are.”
He also can’t see the other end when he is throwing and relies on a sighted guide to tell him if a soft or heavy take out is needed. Each of the four teams in the tournament has their own sighted guide.
“The sighted guide explains all that to you all that to you,” he said. “[They] also holds the broom closer you if you have a broom. Some people’s vision is so bad the broom doesn’t help, in which case they would try to turn the angle properly and watch the travel of the rock or get them to throw it where the skip is at the other end.”
Vinson only played in Vancouver for a couple years ago before moving to 100 Mile House 10 years ago and starting the team a year after his arrival.
The team originally had around seven curlers and two sighted guides.
“It was really good in the beginning. For a couple of people, curling was really big in their life, which was a bonus because it’s easy to become a recluse or not do a lot when you have vision problems, so it gave these people something to do.”
Unfortunately, four of those people have moved away from 100 Mile House leaving the club with only three members. However, they won the West Coast Blind Curling Association Provincial Playdowns a second time since their first win and have played in the Western Blind Curling Championships five times and the national tournament twice.
“If we all have a half-decent game, we have a chance,” said Vinson of the possibility of adding a third provincial title to the silverware.