WHEELCHAIR CURLERS LAST OVERSEAS TOUR BEFORE PARALYMPIC SELECTION
The ParalympicsGB curling squad get their Canadian and US campaign underway at the Cathy Kerr International Bonspiel tomorrow (24-26 November) which will be their last major international tour before the team is selected for the Paralympic Games in PyeongChang next year.
British Curling Head Wheelchair Coach Sheila Swan believes that both the Canadian and US Open event in Utica will provide the perfect competition conditions as the 100 days to go milestone gets closer.
“The plan is to test out different combinations of players at these events so they will get used to playing in different positions although largely we will look to keep Aileen Neilson as skip and rotate the others throughout the two events.
“This will really help us to discern the best playing potential of this squad so this process is really about optimising performances out of this group,” said Swan.
“Obviously having a testing ground at events out here is ideal as the standard is always high from club level upwards, so this is ideal at this stage of preparations as we build towards the Paralympics selection in December.”
Swan added: “It’s been a few years since a British Curling wheelchair team has been across the Atlantic so it will be an interesting gauge of where we are at in terms of Games readiness.”
Sochi medallist Angie Malone who recently received her MBE for services to wheelchair curling is relishing the prospect of competing across the water and competing with old acquaintances and friends, whilst Hugh Nibloe who has joined the team since the last Paralympic cycle is keen to make his debut as a competitor stateside.
Nibloe said: “I’m really looking forward to competing out here, it’ll be my first visit as a curler having previously been to both Canada and the U.S. as a sailor.
“It’s a great opportunity to put in to practice what we’ve been working on at the National Curling Academy to prepare us for competing against some of our Paralympic opponents as well as some of the best club teams in the world and we will be aiming to back up our strong performance at the Stirling international.
“It’s also a good chance to replicate the time away from home that we’ll experience at the Paralympics if selected, so a chance to really eat, sleep and curl,” he said.
“We travel with confidence and the knowledge that good results from these two tournaments would put us in a good place heading in to the new year.”
Aileen Neilson who skipped the team to bronze at the 2014 Paralympic Games is also keen that the team puts in a strong performance which will serve as a marker to other teams gearing up for PyeongChang and she hopes also to fulfil her dream of being selected to represent ParalympicsGB again.
Neilson said:”The squad have been working hard over the last few weeks as this will be a great opportunity for lots of games against high quality teams - exactly what we are needing in preparation for the Paralympics. It will also be a chance to build on team dynamics with all six players making the journey and a good test of our stamina with the long journey and demanding schedule of the two competitions.
She added: “We are extremely grateful for all the support we receive from the Sportscotland Institute of Sport and the work we have done with our nutritionist, physiologist, physiotherapist and strength and conditioning coach to ensure we all have a really strong foundation for the weeks and hopefully if selected, the months ahead, leading up to South Korea.
Please click here for more information on US Open International Wheelchair Bonspiel
John Doyle (Stonehouse)
Gregor Ewan (Elgin)
Angie Malone MBE (Glasgow)
Robert McPherson (Bellshill)
Aileen Neilson (Strathaven) – Skip
Hugh Nibloe (Stranraer)
PHOTOS: Perthshire Picture Agency – Graeme Hart.