Wikinews interviews USA wheelchair curler David Palmer

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Monday, April 8, 2013

David Palmer of Team USA
Image: David Palmer.
David Palmer of Team USA
Image: David Palmer.

Wikinews interviewed David Palmer, a member of the USA 2013 World Wheelchair Curling Championship team, about the 2014 Winter Paralympics being held in Sochi, Russia.

((Wikinews)) The US qualified a team for the Sochi Games. How likely are you to be on the final team? As these games would be your first, how excited are you about the possibility of representing your country?

David Palmer: It is very likely that I and the team that went to Sochi in 2013 will be the team in the Paralympics 2014 as long as no sickness or injury and we all continue to perform at our level.
DP: I am very happy and honored to represent my country. After competing in the last two world championships which were very exciting, I can not wait for the chance to compete at the Paralympics.

((WN)) Were you happy with your team's fourth place finish at this year's World Championships?

DP: I was happy with the way the team played, we all thought we should have medaled. We finished third in the round-robin with a record of 7–2 and the closest behind us was 4–5. We all made a few mistakes and did not finish as well as we would have liked, but we are looking forward to next year.

((WN)) What steps is the team taking to try to get a gold medal in Sochi?

DP: We will be training harder and hopefully playing more bonspiels (tournaments). Because this is a Paralympic year we hope to get more funding, to travel for more high level bonspiels. Because the team is scattered across the country it is hard to get together for practice and bonspiels so we have to do the majority of it on our own. We will be reviewing the tapes from the worlds [World Wheelchair Curling Championship] and video conferencing with team and discussing strategy and performance.

((WN)) Why do you participate in wheelchair curling? Why not wheelchair fencing, tennis, basketball or athletics?

DP: I do participate in other sports at a recreational level. I have done waterskiing, monosking, wheelchair tennis and basketball, handcycling. I played and competed in sled hockey for about 12 years, but I found as I got older and the competition got younger it was pretty physical on the body. I went and tried curling at Cape Cod Curling Club in 2009, I found that I not only liked it but I was also pretty good at it. A member there (Tony Colacchio) took me under his wing and showed me the possibilities there were to compete at the National level. I thought he was crazy at first, but four years later here I am curling on team USA and traveling the world.

((WN)) What is the nature of your disability? Do you use a wheelchair for most daily activities?

DP: I am a T4 Paraplegic, due to a motorcycle accident in 1993. Yes I am dependent on my wheelchair for mobility.

((WN)) How does being a parent impact your ability to compete at elite levels?

DP: I am married and have three children. Having a family does make it a harder to compete at elite levels, not only being away traveling, when I am home I am on the ice training a lot. But thanks to the support from my family I have been able to do so. Hopefully it has a positive impact on my children, showing them you can achieve anything you put your mind to.

((WN)) Does participating in wheelchair curling cost a lot money?

DP: Well that depends! At a recreational level, if you have a wheelchair already all you need is a delivery stick which is about $60.00 and to join a club which has dues usually 300.00 to 500.00 per year. To compete at the highest level, there is travel and lodging involved which can get quite expensive.

((WN)) How do you afford to compete at the highest level? Do you have any sponsorship deals?

DP: Getting started was tough, I got help through the members of cape cod curling club and a grant from Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) and some out of my pocket. But once I made the National team there is funding to help with expenses. I have no sponsorship deals at the moment, but I am open to negotiation!

((WN)) Do you think USA Paralympic competitors get enough financial support to enable the country to compete at the highest level? Is funding equitable in the United States across sports and competitor visibility?

DP: No, there is funding, but not nearly enough for an athlete to compete at the highest level.
DP: Not from what I hear. I believe the higher viewed sports get a lot more funding. I have been told curling is at bottom for funding.

((WN)) What are your thoughts on the classification system and processes for your sport? Do you know of anyone who has been impacted as a result of it?

DP: I am not really clear on how the classification system works. I feel that they should make it as equal as possible for everyone who competes in wheelchair curling. Everyone one has different disabilities and different situations, but as long as they are delivering the stone from a stationary wheelchair with a delivery stick from the same position it should be equal.
DP: I know of a young man from state of Washington who uses a wheelchair most of the time but is able to walk and has mobility, that he probably would not qualify for the national team.. Yet I know of a man in Canada that uses a wheelchair only for curling and competes on the National team.

((WN)) Have you gotten much media coverage? What do you think of media coverage for curling in general and wheelchair curling specifically?

DP: I Have had some media coverage from my locals newspaper, when I was competing in the worlds and when I made the National team.
DP: I do not think there is enough coverage for curling on television although there was quite a bit of coverage at the last Olympics, but not the Paralympics. I think if there were more coverage people would understand the sport better and perhaps grow to love it like I have. There is a lot more to it with strategy and skill than people think.

((WN)) What has been your favorite moment as a wheelchair curling competitor?

DP: I think this past worlds in Sochi was my favorite time. Curling at the Olympic Venue (which was state of the art Facility), being the first one ever to curl there was special. Being there when they played our national anthem and I was representing my country was priceless! All of the volunteers there were young college students, they were so friendly and helpful and were asking us for our autographs. I felt like a celebrity. I cannot imagine what the Paralympics are going to feel like! I just hope I am there!


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.