Ellis Tull practises at the Nanaimo Curling Centre last month. Tull was recently named to the Canadian national team for the 2017 world championships in Gangneung

Ellis Tull practises at the Nanaimo Curling Centre last month. Tull was recently named to the Canadian national team for the 2017 world championships in Gangneung

Curler makes it onto Team Canada

NANAIMO – Ellis Tull achieves a goal; will play for his country at world championships in Korea next month.

Ellis Tull didn’t just make the team – he made the best team.

Those were some of the congratulatory words of the Canadian skip Jim Armstrong, a four-time world champion, when Curling Canada recently chose its national wheelchair curling team.

Tull, who curls out of the Nanaimo Curling Centre, was selected to play fifth with Team Canada at the 2017 World Wheelchair Curling Championship from March 4-11 in Gangneung, South Korea.

“Team Canada, they’re the best players, not in the country, in the world, and to count yourself in that group, sometimes you’ve still got to shake your head and go, ‘wow,’” said Tull.

The 51-year-old has been on the national program’s radar for a few years, and at first he was participating in camps mostly to provide competition for some of the country’s best wheelchair curlers.

“But basically practice, practice, practice and my skill level slowly got better and better,” he said.

Tull has played in Nanaimo’s Sleeman Six-Pack League for a few seasons and his wife Shelley has also helped him a lot with his game, timing rocks and helping with video analysis.

Wheelchair curling has most of the same rules as standard curling, except that curlers throw with a stick from halfway between the hogline and the house, there is no sweeping, and mixed teams are mandatory.

Two years ago, Tull set out a long-term goal for himself: to try to make the national team. It was a four-year plan, he said, and he “blew it out of the water.”

He’s looking forward to the world championships, both the off-ice and on-ice experiences, expects to have fun even during a high-stakes competition.

“That’s basically what I’ve practised for the last four or five years to do. Yeah, it’s going to be nerve-wracking, but that’s what I want to do. I’ll be good with that,” he said.

It’s great timing for Tull to rise up the national team ranks right now, considering that the 2018 Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea are only a year away.

He’s getting valuable experience curling at national team camps – there was one last month in Regina; there’s another this month in Cambridge, Ont.

Being part of Team Canada in 2017 doesn’t guarantee him anything for 2018, but it can’t hurt.

“Obviously I want to stay in the position I am or advance into the team as a steady player, not a fifth player, that’s the goal,” Tull said.

His game has come this far in a short time, and it’s taking him to the other side of the world, and maybe it can take him there again on an even bigger stage.

“When I first started, I wasn’t near as good as I am now and … it was hard to play on an able-bodied team,” he said. “Now I play in an able-bodied league here in Nanaimo and I have no trouble fitting in and lots of time, some of the shots I make are the harder [ones] of the game.”