Wausau wheelchair curler brings home gold, leads team USA to world championship qualification
WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Wausau native Matt Thums is bringing home a gold medal after leading Team USA to gold in the World Wheelchair-B Curling Championships.
When Team USA won the gold medal, team skip Thums and the team could be heard singing the song “Sweet Caroline” while still on the ice. They were on top of the world with goal one accomplished.
“Now we got the chance to go back and go meet one of our other goals,” Thums said.
When the team traveled to Finland for the World Wheelchair-B Curling Championships, the goal was simple. They wanted to qualify for the world championship in Beijing. That event is the last chance to earn points towards Paralympics qualification. To qualify, the team had to place in the top three out of ten teams.
But this journey starts two years ago when they were preparing for their first run in the b-championship. They finished 2-5. Needless to say, a long road was ahead.
“We knew we had work to do to get out of it,” Thums said.
They participated largely for the experience. With knowledge in hand, the 16 months that followed were fueled by motivation.
“We had, I think, coach said like 18 training games before we went. And those were pivotal,” Thums said.
The preparation for the tournament this year better equipped them for a deep run. They entered with a new mindset—they were going to qualify.
“We knew it wouldn’t be a walk-through, so every game, we put one rock at a time, one end at a time,” Thums said.
The team breezed through round-robin games, which is one game against each participating team to determine if you qualify for the semifinal round. The top three teams in the tournament qualify for the world championships. After they beat Italy in the semifinals, they had qualified
“I swear to god I lost like 100 pounds off my chest,” Thums said.
With the pressure off his chest and nothing to lose, they decided to win the entire tournament.
“Qualification was the piece of cake we needed to do and the Gold medal was the icing on it,” Thums said.
A win over Switzerland clinched the victory. Thums is now back home sporting the gold medal around his neck. He’s going to revel in the moment, then prepare for the world championships in November. The next goal is qualifying for the Beijing 2022 Paralympics.
Copyright 2021 WSAW. All rights reserved.