By Jim Force | Special to Wausau Pilot & Review

Matt Thums and the USA Wheelchair Curling Team arrived this week in Beijing, China, and are getting ready to take on the world in their quest for a gold medal in the 2022 Paralympic Games.

The games begin this Friday, March 4.

Thums, a Weston resident and member of the Wausau Curling Club, is skip of the team that includes Dave Samsa, of Green Bay; Steve Emt, of Connecticut; Batoyun Uranchimeg, from the Twin Cities and Pam Wilson, from Denver. Coach Rusty Scheiber is from Oxford, Wis. 

Team USA finished fourth at the World competition last October, also held in Beijing, losing in the bronze medal match to the Russians. China won gold, and Sweden silver. The final four finish qualified the US team for the Paralympics.

They will be up against stiff competition from the host China team, the Russian Paralympic Committee, Canada, Great Britain, and the Scandinavian rinks.


Despite the challenges ahead, Thums is confident in his team’s ability to take gold. He practiced relentlessly all winter at the Wausau Curling Center on Curling Way, then flew to Los Angeles last week where he met up with his team. They had a red-carpet rollout to a Delta Airlines jet taking them to Beijing.

After a few days of practice at the Ice Cube facility used for the recent Olympics curling competition, Team USA will open round-robin play this Saturday against Slovakia at 12:35 a.m. our time. They will play Great Britain at 5:35 a.m. our time. Beijing’s time zone is 14 hours ahead of Central Time.

The rest of the schedule is as follows, all times CDT:

Sunday, March 6 vs. Estonia at 12:35 a.m.

Monday, March 7 vs. Canada at 7:35 p.m. Sunday, the evening prior

Monday, March 7 vs. Norway 5:35 a.m.

Tuesday, March 8 vs. Russian Paralympic Committee, 7:35 p.m., Monday, the evening prior

Tuesday, March 8 vs. China, 5:35 a.m.

Wednesday, March 9 vs. Switzerland, 12:35 a.m.

Wednesday, March 9 vs. Latvia, 5:35 a.m.

Thursday, March 10 vs. Sweden, 7:35 p.m., Wednesday, the evening prior

Thursday, March 10 vs. Korea, 12:35 a.m.

Medal games

The semi-finals and bronze medal games are on Friday, March 11. The gold medal game is Saturday, March 12.

Television coverage will be provided by NBS, Peacock, USA, and the Olympic Channel. The 7:30 p.m. starts will no doubt generate watch parties at the Curling Center and around town.

Wheelchair curling operates under the umbrella of the U.S. Curling Association, and Thums says the sport is growing.

Team members are selected after team trials and individual drills for accuracy in speed (or “weight”) and placement of the stones. “You’re chosen for your skill sets,” Thums said.

Wheelchair curling requires that one opposite gender team member be on the ice at all times.

Thums, an accountant for Denyon Homes in Schofield, started got his start after a Learn to Curl session at the Curling Center just 10 years ago.

His message to the community throughout the media coverage leading up to the Paralympics has been consistent: “We want to be on the podium; the preferred color is gold.”