Those of you who follow wheelchair curling will know of the wheelchaircurling.com website and the associated Wheelchair Curling Blog. The blog has been one of the sites I check every day. For six years now, Eric Eales has had his fingers on the pulse of this branch of our sport. I am sorry to learn that Eric has posted for the last time, and although the sites remain online for archive purposes, Eric has confirmed he will not be posting again. His last post is here.
Eric began the website as a forum for his ideas about how the sport might grow to become a viable winter recreation choice for Canadian wheelchair users. It soon became much more than this. Not least, Eric became the sport's unofficial archivist.
Eric was instrumental in organising the first ever international cashspiel for wheelchair curlers in 2005, which the Great Britain squad attended. Although he was not able to compete himself, he championed the sport at every turn, and he wasn't afraid to state his views, even if these did not always prove popular with those in power.
For example, he wrote to me yesterday, "I fear Paralympics inclusion has on balance been destructive to the viability of the sport. It has cemented a format unsuitable for wheelchair participation as well as providing a rationale for governing bodies to spend most of their resources on a handful of privileged 'high performance' athletes at the expense of attempting to offer curling to general wheelchair users in the same way as clubs, at least here in Canada, offer the experience to the general public.
No-one outside of an elite group of wealthy sponsors, high performance coaches, governing bureaucrats and the high performance athletes and their immediate families, cares about medals for more than a couple of weeks per quadrennial - what a waste when with support of community coaches all wheelchair users could be given a reason to get out of the house in the winter."
Eric was supportive about the structures we have here in Scotland, citing particularly the activities of the South Lanarkshire WCC, and often was talking about things over here, even before I was aware of them!
Wheelchair curling needs a voice. Thank you Eric for all you have done to promote the sport and every wish for success in whatever you turn your energies to now.