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USA wheelchair curling team finds new training home in Plover

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PLOVER, Wis. (WAOW) -- In a challenging year for all sports, the USA wheelchair curling team is pushing forward. Their obstacles finds them a new home at the brand new Sentry Curling Center in Plover.

"The problem really right now comes down to finding a club that has good ice, that has accommodations that are accessible and is open, and those are very few and far between right now in the United States," National coach Rusty Schieber said.

With players spread across the country, in person practice wasn't an option. So they got creative.

"We did not stop training because we didn't have ice to train on we had to learn how to train smarter, better and how to do it off the ice," said Schieber.

The team turned to what so many others have this year, Zoom.

Weston native, Matt Thums said they focused on, "our mental strategy, work online because we couldn't get together as much a lot more mental practice at home just imagining shooting a shot."

The team says they believe the muscle memory is only the second half of the battle.

Former UConn basketball players, now 7 year team USA athlete Stephen Emt said, "as long as you have a clear mind and believe in yourself taking a shot it's gonna happen."

The olympic qualifiers have been postponed twice, originally scheduled for 2020. The constant schedule changes has forced the team to restart their training program multiple times.

"we've been up and down emotionally with the world championships been postponed the couple times," Emt said.

As they focus on their headspace, the obstacles have made them tougher.

"We really didn't miss a beat at all so we come together take a couple hours to come I can acclimated to where we are and then get ready for the competition, " Emt continued.

In a little over a month, they'll be on the the qualifiers. Nothing can match the feeling they will get when they step off the plane.

"A little nervous... when you touchdown but then it's game on. We can't wait to get on the ice so the first down against the first team," said Thums.

The next stop for the team is Finland. They depart in five weeks. Once they get there, they will quarantine and await testing, and if all goes well, they'll complete for their ticket to the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

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Addison Van Patten

Sports Reporter

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