19 February 2019
Scotland target home comforts in World Wheelchair Curling Championships
The unforgettable experience of being the host nation is one to savour – and Scotland stars, both old and new, are looking to make the most of next month’s World Wheelchair Curling Championships.
For the third time in their history, the Scots will play in a home World Championships on March 3-10 at the Peak, Stirling, with Paralympic Games bronze-medallist Aileen Neilson named as skip.
Fellow Sochi 2014 medal-winner Robert McPherson is also included but at the other end of the scale, Hugh Nibloe, who was part of ParalympicsGB’s PyeongChang 2018 team, as well as David Melrose and alternate Gary Logan, who is in line for his first Scotland cap, add a wildcard element to proceedings.
British Curling performance director Graeme Thompson hopes an air of unpredictability will help make Scotland a dangerous prospect on home ice.
“It’s quite a good mixture, really, of experience and new blood. It’s not bad for the old heads to have a bit of new energy and enthusiasm running through things,” he said.
“Handing someone their international debut at the World Championships is a massive thing but we had a rigorous selection process. They’re not easy decisions.
The Scotland squad for the 2019 World Wheelchair Curling Championships
“I think that the issue with wheelchair curling or any curling is that you’ve got to deliver over eight or nine days.
“You’re not just turning up for two or three races, so you’re going to have to do deal with a few defeats – there’s not many teams that go undefeated for 11 matches, so there’s ups and downs.
“The team dynamic will need to be strong to cope with that. We’re in a good place and we want to make the most of being at home as well.”
The Scots have twice claimed gold at the worlds – in 2004 and 2005 – and were hosts during the latter championships.
No pressure this time, then?
Thompson said: “If we repeated that gold medal, that would be absolutely fantastic.
“If we’re not going to get the gold, then we want to get as close as we can but at the same time, one of the reasons that the event has been brought to Scotland is to inspire future players as well, so hopefully, that will be a secondary outcome.”
Next month’s tournament represents the first opportunity for nations to gain qualification points for the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing.
"One of the reasons that the event has been brought to Scotland is to inspire future players as well"
For the first time, the competition will also feature 12 teams, shifting the landscape significantly.
“It’s a new system, with the top six qualifying for the knockout stages as opposed to four,” said British Curling’s head wheelchair curling coach Sheila Swan, who won gold with Scotland at the able-bodied Women’s World Championships in 2002.
“So it’s a bit different – what does that win-loss record to make it to the knockout stages look like?
“The landscape of wheelchair curling’s fairly fluid. There are emerging nations. A lot of teams have got new line-ups.
“I have used examples of my past experiences. I was lucky enough to play in a home worlds in Paisley so I’ve experienced how nice it is to have your friends and family around you but ultimately, you’re still out there to do a job.
“For me, it’s about trying to relax and enjoy it. We’ve got two debutants playing this year. When it’s your time to play your shot, that’s your 30 seconds to shine.”
Pictures: Perthshire Picture Agency/Graeme Hart
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