Curling empowers visually Impaired


Curling empowers visually Impaired

Who says you need to see to curl? A group called the KW Blind Curlers located in the heart of Waterloo, Ont. are proving this theory wrong.

Head Coach, Jeff Ontonovich, has been teaching visually impaired curlers for the past six years. His group consists of seven curlers who have limited or no vision and two Ice directors.

“I love teaching them because of the fact that there’s great gratification,” said Ontonovich. “The visually impaired people don’t consider as (themselves) handicapped, they consider just as a speed bump and they have such an enthusiasm and dedication.

Deborah Sampson, who has been curling for seven years with the KW Blind Curlers was diagnosed with Rentinitis Pigmentosa or better known as RP.

RP is a rare genetic disorder that gradually weakness sight and can lead to complete blindness. The most prominent symptoms are difficulty seeing a night or no vision at all.

Sampson comes to practice at the KW Granite club at 10 a.m. on Fridays. She is regular, there has not been a day of practice she has missed.

“No, no vision at all. I am totally blind,” said Sampson. She curls with the help of a stick which helps her balance better.

She is helped on the ice by her husband, Bob Sampson, who is also one of the Ice Directors at the Granite Club. Bob Sampson has helped direct the visually impaired curlers for two years now.

For those with some sight, the coach can help with aiming by standing directly in line between the target and the thrower.

When it comes to Deborah he sets her up and stands with her. On the other end, Ontonovich helps give her a better idea of where to throw the rock by giving her instructions.

Deborah had some sight when she started curling, but for last four years her sight has completely gone. Her most challenging part is that she needs to get a feel of how hard to slide the rock close to the house.

Deborah feels that every time she is on ice she feels energetic and motivated to do more.

Videographer: Varsha Sriganesh