Canadian skip has come full circle

CanWest News Service
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Six-time Brier participant once thought his curling career was over

Gerry Peckham is one of those unheralded, behind-the-scenes guys.

He won't have some dignitary putting a gold medal around his neck if Canadian skip Jim Armstrong does the expected in Paralympic curling.

He may not be on the podium with Armstrong and his team of Darryl Neighbour, Ina Forrest, Sonja Gaudet and fifth Bruno Yizek, but he won't be far away with a block-wide grin pasted on his cherubic kisser.

Canada skip Jim Armstrong (right) throws a stone as teammate Sonja Gaudet and Japan's Ayako Saitoh and Takashi Hidai watch during wheelchair curling competition at the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver Monday. Canada defeating Japan 13-2 then losing 8-

Vancouver -

Gerry Peckham is one of those unheralded, behind-the-scenes guys.

He won't have some dignitary putting a gold medal around his neck if Canadian skip Jim Armstrong does the expected in Paralympic curling.

He may not be on the podium with Armstrong and his team of Darryl Neighbour, Ina Forrest, Sonja Gaudet and fifth Bruno Yizek, but he won't be far away with a block-wide grin pasted on his cherubic kisser.

For Peckham, who hooked up with Armstrong to win back-to-back B.C. men's able-bodied titles in 1973, with Jack Tucker skipping, and '74 with Armstrong on the teeline, is as responsible as anyone for getting Armstrong out of his easy chair and into wheelchair curling. And it's as if the 59-year-old former dentist was reborn.

Because the constant pain in his ruined knees refused to allow him to get down in the hack, and his wrecked shoulders wouldn't let him sweep, a depressed Armstrong - known as the Big Jim and the Friendly Giant - was certain his days of competitive curling were over in 2002.

For someone as competitive as Armstrong, who'd curled for more than 40 years and won six Purple Hearts as B.C. men's champion, the future was gloomy indeed.

Nearly seven years after limping out of the Richmond Curling Club, he wheeled back in with a brand-new outlook in 2007.

Peckham, the high-performance director for the Canadian Curling Association, of course, knew of his former skip's retirement from able-bodied curling. He called and wanted to know just how crocked Armstrong was.

Two crocked knees and a like number of useless shoulders suggested to Peckham a fresh start for his old friend. Still, Armstrong had to travel to Scotland to prove to the World Curling Association's doctor there he was crippled enough.

"The good news is they allowed me to play," said Armstrong, in his particular brand of humour.

"The bad news is I'm that screwed up physically."

Having said that, it's been a long time since he's felt this good.

Since Carleen, his wife and the mother of his three children, lost her battle with cancer last summer, getting ready for the Paralympics has been particularly therapeutic.

"I throw more rocks in a month than I did my last five years of able-bodied curling," he said.

It should be noted that wheelchair curlers use a stick to deliver the rock while they sit in their chair, so there's no stress on Armstrong's knees.

He also had surgery on his left shoulder last summer to help him with the wheeling of his chair.

And his teammates make him feel good all over.

"The difference between these folks and able-bodied curlers is attitude," said Armstrong.

"They really check their egos at the door."

Organizations: Big Jim, Friendly Giant, Richmond Curling Club Canadian Curling Association World Curling Association Armstrong's

Geographic location: Vancouver, Scotland

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Recent comments

  • Joanne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    These Olympics are just as deserving, or even more so, to receive media coverage as the
    regular Olympics.
    So why aren't they?
    Can you just fathom the amount of training these athletes have to endure?
    They are an example to all of us who moan or groan about every little ache or pain. God bless you for your courage and perserverance!

  • Joanne
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    These Olympics are just as deserving, or even more so, to receive media coverage as the
    regular Olympics.
    So why aren't they?
    Can you just fathom the amount of training these athletes have to endure?
    They are an example to all of us who moan or groan about every little ache or pain. God bless you for your courage and perserverance!