Outfitter chases gold medal dreams on the ice

By day, he is a mild-mannered Outfitter at Cabela’s in Green Bay, Wis., using his engaging nature and charismatic personality to assist guests in the CLUB Membership Program.

By night, he slings slabs of granite down sheets of ice, working hard as he prepares to represent the United States as a member of the National Team at the World Wheelchair Curling Championships in Beijing this fall. Hopefully the next step after that is an appearance at the 2022 Paralympic Games.

David was on the gold medal-winning team at the World Wheelchair-B Curling Championships in Finland in April. It was a major achievement in that it was the first gold medal for the U.S. in 11 years.

David is a member of a co-ed team that includes individuals in Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Connecticut. They all practice on their own, have regular Zoom meetings with each other and the coaching staff, gather to practice together as schedules permit, and “try out” every year to maintain their spot on the team.

“You’re really counting on your teammates, and that’s 100 percent the way it is at Cabela’s,” he said. “Nobody is in this alone.”

He credits Cabela’s – he was one of the original Outfitters who helped open the Green Bay location in 2014 – with giving him experience working in a team atmosphere.

David was a journeyman millwright when he was injured in a car accident in 2002, driving home with his family after a ski trip. His children were 4 and 5 years old, and he doesn’t remember the crash, only waking up in a hospital bed 3 months later.

While David’s family members suffered minor injuries, he’s been in a wheelchair ever since.

After that, he became the family homemaker, caring for the children as a stay-at-home father. When they became teenagers and were able to drive themselves, he went down to a hiring event for Cabela’s and was hired for a CLUB position.

In his spare time, he participated in an all-wheelchair trap team that he helped put together. But with the winters of northern Wisconsin cutting the season shorter than he’d like, and on the recommendation of a friend, he gave curling a shot back in late 2008.

“I fell in love with it right away,” he said.

Curling has become a fan favorite after some exposure in recent Winter Olympic Games. Wheelchair curling is similar, except there is no sweeping involved. Teams send 42-pound pieces of granite down a 150-foot long sheet of ice, toward the target, or “house.” Teams alternate throwing the “stones” down the ice, with points scored for the stones resting closest to the center of the house. Teams include a Lead, Second (which David is), Vice Skip and Skip.

After struggling at Worlds in Finland in 2019, the team needed a strong finish in the return trip to Finland in April to qualify for Beijing. They not only finished strong, they won gold. Next up is the World Wheelchair Curling Championships in October, and if they collect enough points there, there will be a return to Beijing in March for the 2022 Paralympic Games.

He credits fellow Outfitters and the family culture at Cabela’s with giving him the freedom to practice on his own and travel for team practices and competitions all over the world.

David still is a relative newcomer to the sport, but he’s passionate about the competition, the camaraderie and the chance to see the world, one 42-pound piece of granite at a time.

“It’s quite the journey, very time-consuming but very, very rewarding, sitting up on the podium with a gold medal around your neck,” he said.