Ice-skating in a wheelchair? But of course!
Fresh winter air in your face, that feeling as if you were flying, people all around you laughing and having a good time, Christmas-time music in your ears… All that on a sparkling winter day, on a smooth ice surface and wearing ice-skates on your feet… or a wheelchair ice glider under your wheels.
Years ago in my hometown Ulbroka, Latvia, where a frozen lake and frost covered reeds around is phenomena, that occurs every Winter, I once saw a boy from my school skating together with his girlfriend. Nothing unusual about this unless the fact, that his girlfriend was being rolled over the ice in a wheelchair. Fifteen years ago, skating in a wheelchair was not possible for her, but today it is, and in quite an amazing way.
In January 2014 at a skating rink in Weyermannshaus, Switzerland, an ice glider was introduced to its potential users. The ice glider consists of a steel frame and a pair of blades attached to it. The wheels of most wheelchairs can be fixed on the one metre long frame. To get onto the frame, one needs to use a special ramp that is available together with the ice glider.
Visiting a skating rink is a great fun if you do it together with your friends. However, the ice glider gives you an opportunity to skate on your own as well, namely, using a pair of sticks with an ice pick attached. This makes the skater truly independent. Some people say, one can even get a positive addiction to the crunching sound of blades cutting into the ice…
Whom else would one expect behind this luge-alike tool if not a past luge sport legend? Hans Rinn, former German athlete, two time Olympic Gold medallist in doubles and Bronze medallist in singles, is now working as a luging judge and building different gliding and sliding tools. Apart from the luge-alike wheelchair glider, he is also building sliding pipes for swimming pools. He produced the ice glider together with his colleagues Karin Schorbach and Gerhard Kirchner.
Starting from this skating season, ice gliders are ready for use in skating rinks in Zürich, Bern, Gstaad, Davos… More Swiss skating rinks in other cities are expected to have ice gliders during the season 2014/2015. The author of this initiative is the Foundation Cerebral. Their goal is to hand out ice gliders for free use in around 20 skating rinks all over Switzerland, to open a brand new activity window for wheelchair users together with their families. Rather high costs of 2’000 CHF (approximately 1’600 EUR) apiece are covered by donations.
Now, there is a pair of steel wings given to the wheelchair users to make them able to fly over the ice. Let us hope, that soon more and more countries will provide free flight access to their citizens. And who knows, maybe soon there will be masses standing behind the boards of a skating rink and admiring pirouettes of wheelchair users as their (ice glider using) techniques advance?
In Switzerland ice gliders are available in:
• Bern, Eisbahn Weyermannshaus
• Bern, Kunsteisbahn Bundesplatz Bern
• Bern, PostFinance Arena
• Burgdorf, Regionales Eissportzentrum Emme Burgdorf
• Davos, Tourismus- und Sportzentrum Davos Klosters
• Frauenfeld, Kunsteisbahn Frauenfeld
• Gstaad, Sportzentrum Gstaad
• Küsnacht, Kunsteisbahn Küsnacht
• Le Locle, Patinoire du Communal Le Locle
• Leukerbad, Sportarena Leukerbad
• Meiringen, Kunsteisbahn Meiringen
• Münchenbuchsee, Sportzentrum Hirzi Münchenbuchsee
• Neuchâtel, Patinoire du Littoral Neuchâtel
• Olten, Sportpark Olten
• Sierre, Patinoire Bellevue Sierre
• Thalwil, Eisbahn Brand Thalwil
• Urdorf, Kunsteisbahn Weihermatt
• Widnau, Kunsteisbahn Rheintal Widnau
• Wiler Sportanlagen, Wil
• Yverdon-les-Bains, Patinoire d’Yverdon-les-Bains
• Zuchwil, Sportzentrum Zuchwil