A sport which began life as a discus and a door handle has had a whirlwind nine year existence and, this May, New Age Kurling holds its seventh World Championships on Merseyside.

 

For creator John Bennett, the story of New Age Kurling, a non-ice version of traditional curling, is one tinged with inspiration and sadness.

 

The 64-year-old from Kent came up with the game when his son, 25 at the time, was left paralysed after an operation to cure his epilepsy went horribly wrong.

 

“When my son had very limited mobility, he asked me to find a game that he could play because he didn’t like the more traditional disability sports,” said Mr Bennett. “I’d tried discus and javelin but it was when we were watching the World Curling Championships on TV that I had this idea. I bought a handle from B&Q and stuck it to the discus and had some bearings put on it, and that was the first prototype.”

 

Mr Bennett’s son sadly died of a stroke at the age of 34 but his legacy is a sport that continues to grow around the world.

 

Having originally been designed as a game for disabled people the sport has since gained popularity with people of all abilities. “It’s mind-boggling. I really didn’t see it coming. It started off as a game for my son but it just grew and moreand more things start to creep up on you,” said the ex-builder of his unexpected success.

 

But Mr Bennett is well aware that New Age Kurling won’t escape feeling the pinch in the current climate. This year’s competition is set to have less diversity as sponsors become hard to come by for foreign teams. However, Halton council have come to the rescue by allowing organisers to use the Kingsway Leisure Centre free of charge.

 

The sport also has some big name supporters in the world of politics. Ex-London Mayor Ken Livingstone and Lord Moynihan of the British Olympic Committee have bothe expressed their backing for the fledgling sport.

 

Founders claim that New Age Kurling is the first sport which allows disabled and able-bodied people to compete against each other.

 

Mr. Bennett has received a number of awards for his invention including the Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year. Later this year, he will be filming a Sport Relief special of Dragon’s Den for the BBC, in recognition of his achievements in creating a new sport.

 

Recruitment Drive

 

The sport is currently on a huge recruitment drive as they strive to get enough kurlers to get recognised by Sport England. However to be recognised, participants must be members of Kurling clubs.

“The problem is that a lot of people see it as a ‘game’ rather than a ‘sport’ but clubs are popping up everywhere. They have leagues in Lincolnshire and Leicestershire, and there are also a number of clubs on Merseyside” said Mr Bennett.

 

The sport is also used as a rehab method for those recovering from major operations up and down the country because of its unique way of exercising the muscles.

Following a survey, the Great Britain Kurling Association (GBKA) found that around 45,000 people play the sport every week in the UK.

 

Paralympic Dreams

 

Despite not being recognised as an official sport by Sport England the sport has achieved global success since its creation.

 

According to the GBKA, this innovative adaptation of the ice-based sport is now played in 174 countries.

“We’ve just got a deal with Canada who are going to put the equipment into 900 schools and we’re hoping to have a similar deal with France very soon,” added Mr. Bennett.

 

John Bennett’s dream is to have New Age Kurling added to the Paralympic Games but admits that that dream is some way off.

 

“To have it at the Paralympics would require the sport to have 24 national governing bodies and at the moment there’s just one. We’re hoping to host an exhibition event at London 2012 to boost our chances,” said Mr Bennett.

 

The World Championships take place at the Kingsway Leisure Centre in Widnes on the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd of May and are sponsored by Halton Council. The sport will celebrate its ninth anniversary just four days later on the 7th.

 

 

 

It started with a discus and a door handle...

By Jack Davies, Deputy Sports Editor

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The Growth of New Age Kurling