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British Curling’s 2020 World Championship skip Hugh Nibloe has welcomed returning teammate Gregor Ewan back into the fold for the coming season and is relishing the increased competition for places that the Paralympic medallist’s re-selection will help generate. 

Ewan, who played alongside Nibloe at the 2018 Paralympics in PyeongChang and was part of the team that won that a bronze medal in Sochi four years earlier, has once again shown his resilience in battling his way back into the eight player squad for 2020/21 that was announced by British Curling today.

“There is no-one as proud as Gregor to pull on the Scotland or GB shirt,” said Nibloe.

“He has a wealth of World Champs and Paralympics experience that all of the squad will be able to lean on and learn from.

“There will be a greater depth this season and everyone in the squad will have to work hard and train hard to earn their place in the team and I am excited by that.

“I think it will bring out the best in the squad moving forwards and I know how important this is for Gregor to be back. I am looking forward to getting back on the ice with him, he is a big personality and will really add to the team dynamics and will add drive towards the pursuit of our goals ahead.”

Ewan won silver at the World Wheelchair Championships in 2011 and bronze in South Korea in 2017 either side of that Sochi success and he is keen to add to his medal haul. 

“There is one medal that still eludes me and I have worked hard to get back on the programme and feel stronger for it and my aim now is to go for that gold,” said the 48 year old.

“I have won the Scottish Champs five times in a row and the British twice in a row which hopefully shows that I still want to be on the top of the pile.

“I didn’t make it to Vancouver, but I made it my mission to make sure I made it to the next Paralympics. Getting my first shirt for Scotland and then ParalympicsGB with my name on were huge moments in the game for me and I could not have been prouder to wear that on my back. For me it makes my heart pump. It was an honour to represent Scotland or GB. I believe I have a lot more to give and a lot more I can achieve. I want to be the best I possibly can be for my country and also for my squad mates.

“It is a very different squad to when I left two years ago and the mix means we all have something different to give to the unit. We all have the same goal and will be working hard together to achieve it.”

The Elgin based wheelchair curler joins fellow Sochi medallist Robert McPherson in the squad, along with other 2019 World silver medallists David Melrose and Gary Logan.

2020 World Champs debutants Gary Smith, Charlotte McKenna and Meggan Dawson-Farrell have also retained their places on the programme.

Former Commonwealth Games 1500 metres athlete Dawson-Farrell who joined the programme for the first time last year is thrilled to have earned her place on the squad again. 

“This is a great opportunity for me to continue my progression in the sport and to be given this chance again is amazing and I want to make the very most of it,” said the 27 year old.

“I have really enjoyed being part of a team sport, but with hindsight it has been a bit of a strange first year. I was inducted onto the programme and it was a steep learning curve trying to grasp all of the new information and new skills required. It was also a huge honour to go to my first Worlds and I felt a bit like a sponge trying to absorb as much as I possibly could from my team mates, from watching how other teams operated and the whole experience really. I felt incredibly fortunate and I hope it is the first of many.

“Returning from the Worlds and going into lockdown was something none of us could have predicted. But again I am so grateful that the programme gave me a training regime and routine to continue and follow and it has given me a sense of purpose.

“To be selected for programme support is a privilege. Before that I think I had lost my way a bit and it gave me a focus and I have kept that and maintained fitness at home working towards the goal of selection. This is a really big year ahead and it is a super exciting to be involved.” 

In addition to the eight-strong squad, three new athletes have been invited to train alongside them as part of a number of changes to the British Curling selection process. Stephen McGarry, Stewart Pimblett and Norma Woods, all of whom are members of Northern Ice based in Northumberland are being supported at stage two of the refined process.

British Curling Paralympic Head Coach Sheila Swan said: “A new approach has allowed us to expand our talent pool by enabling new athletes to train alongside other members of the squad as we are constantly looking at ways of expanding our talent ID process and providing more opportunities.

“Despite what has been an extremely challenging end to the wheelchair curling schedule and a premature one for the sport as a whole, all of the selected athletes have continued to work hard following training regimes that will keep them fit for when the season resumes. It is good when hard work is rewarded, especially as we head into the business end of the Paralympic cycle.

“The expanded squad provides us with a great opportunity in our preparations for our World Championships in Beijing next year, the same venue which will host the next Paralympic Games in 2022.

“It is a big year ahead on many levels and we will ensure that stringent measures and protocols are in place at the National Curling Academy in Stirling when guidelines permit a return to the ice.”

British Curling Programme Squad – stage 1:
Meggan Dawson-Farrell (Tullibody)
Gregor Ewan (Elgin)
Gary Logan (Cornhill on Tweed)
Charlotte McKenna (Bridge of Allan)
Robert McPherson (Bellshill)
David Melrose (Duns)
Hugh Nibloe (Stirling)
Gary Smith (Edinburgh)

Stage 2:
Stephen McGarry (Bedlington)
Stewart Pimblett (Seghill)
Norma Woods (Bedlington)

Images: PPA/Graeme Hart

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