NANAIMO — Ellis Tull is back from Korea after representing Canada at the World Wheelchair Curling Championship last week.
He's one of only two competitive wheelchair curlers in Nanaimo and started his journey with Team Canada back in August. Initially he was one of 12 curlers on the radar for our country's entry at the Worlds. That got whittled down to eight and eventually the final five that made their way to Gangneung.
Getting the opportunity to curl on the world stage was an incredible experience, Tull said. He likens it to a junior hockey player getting called up to play a game in the Stanley Cup Final.
"You can't prepare for the atmosphere, you can't prepare for the ice conditions and the way the rocks are. It was quite a shock. Some of my teammates have been to the Worlds and to the Paralympics before, they try to prepare you for it but you just can't. We don't play in front of a big crowds here in Canada but there, there were people everywhere," Tull said.
On the ice Tull's team went 5-4, but missed a chance to advance to the playoffs after a tie-breaker loss to Norway. The Norwegians went on to win the gold medal and Tull said his team just got outplayed in a couple key ends.
"This was the first time our team played together," he said. "We had three teammates that had been together for a while, then there was myself and a player from Regina that were new on the team."
Tull noted that in many ways the Worlds were a "test" event for Team Canada. He played the role of alternate and got into two games during the tournament.
"One against Germany and one against China. The first game I played lead, the second game I played second."
There will be a debriefing in about one month and then camps will start up in July for the next major event, the Paralympics. Tull expects the selections will be made in September and he knows he'll have to be at his best with no spots on Team Canada guaranteed.
Standard curling and wheelchair curling have a few key differences. There is no sweeping and the rocks are delivered halfway between the hogline and the house. Tull explains that the rocks are released with a stick.
"The stick has a handle on it, the handle goes on the handle of the curling stone, and it's delivered that way."
There are events for wheelchair curlers only and other bonspiels that are a mix of wheelchair athletes and able-bodied curlers.
Just a week after the World Championships Tull will be back at the Nanaimo Curling Club. He will be a part of the opening ceremonies for the inaugural U18 Provincial Curling Championship.
The draws will run March 17 to March 19 and Tull expects the Nanaimo Club will be an excellent host.
"The curling will be amazing. The U18, that's the future of our sport. I definitely recommend people to come out and watch it."
Tull wants to give back and help with the U18's anyway he can, especially at the curling club that gave him his start and a lot of his practice time leading up to the World Championship.
On Twitter: @danmarshall77