NIBLOE MARKS 100 DAYS TO GO WITH PYEONGCHANG IN HIS SIGHTS

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British Curling’s wheelchair curler Hugh Nibloe is nurturing his PyeongChang dream as he marks 100 days to go to the Paralympic Winter Games in South Korea next year.

The former rugby player turned to wheelchair curling after being diagnosed with MS and was part of the Paralympic Inspiration Programme when some of his current squad mates won bronze in Sochi 2014. Now he is hoping to make his dream a reality by gaining selection for the ParalympicsGB curling team.

“100 days to go is a reminder of how close we’re getting. It feels like yesterday we were in PyeongChang with a year to go. There’s so much to work on before then, starting with competing in the US open this weekend and then selections will follow that, so the real focus right now is putting in a strong performance here.”

It is a change of direction for Nibloe, who played full back for Stranraer Academy when he was growing up and represented Wigtownshire RFC before joining the merchant navy, becoming an officer before returning ashore. He was working as a manager in a bookmaker’s when he first developed symptoms in 2005 and was diagnosed with MS a year later.

“I’d lost the ability to walk without use of elbow crutches and it hit home I was never going to compete in sport again. My condition deteriorated quite quickly and by December 2010 I was reliant on the wheelchair and having low dose chemotherapy to stabilise my condition which has worked,” said Nibloe.

“Once in the chair I was terrified to leave the house, my social life was restricted to my friends visiting me to watch football or rugby.

“In the summer of 2012 Brian Park introduced himself as the Stranraer wheelchair curling coach and asked if I’d like to give it a try. In October I got my first lesson, was hooked from the start and was asked to play with Castle Kennedy club.

“In March 2013, I played in my first Scottish Wheelchair Curling Championship, where we played a certain Angela Malone MBE in the 5/6 game which we won. Angie then asked me if I could play in another event with her and I agreed.

“All the time I found my fears getting less and less and my circle of friends growing. I applied to be on the development squad for 2013/14 and was successful and was asked to be on the Scotland team at the British open and I was over the moon.

“Later that year I joined the Para GB inspiration program which was a fantastic experience and something I’m so happy I had the chance to do.

“With 100 days to go I feel ready if selected for it, due to the experience I gained from the inspiration program as I know what to expect having represented Scotland at two world champs and two world B champs. I know we can be right up there at the end of the week and that’s exciting.

“It was an amazing feeling to win the world bronze. My first experience had ended in us getting relegated to the world B’s and we fought so hard to get back to the top division, always believing in one and other. So to win promotion and medal the same season made it extra special.”

It was that world bronze result earlier this year that secured the GB place for the Paralympics and Nibloe is hopeful that he will be one of the five curlers that will be on the plane to South Korea next year.

“The team are really tight, everyone is pushing each other on and our coach Sheila Swan is leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of that medal,” he said.

“Representing GB at the Paralympics is the biggest honour I can achieve and I still have to pinch myself that I’m in a position where I might be selected and be able to attain that dream.”

British Curling wheelchair squad:
John Doyle (Stonehouse)
Gregor Ewan (Elgin)
Angie Malone (Glasgow)
Robert McPherson (Bellshill)
Aileen Neilson (Strathaven) – Skip
Hugh Nibloe (Stranraer)

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