WHEELCHAIR CURLERS BEAT THREE PARALYMPIC RIVALS ON WAY TO US OPEN WIN
British Curling’s wheelchair squad beat three teams who will be lining up at next year’s PyeongChang Paralympic Games on their way to winning the US Open International Wheelchair Bonspiel (1-3 December).
Team Scotland – comprising John Doyle, Gregor Ewan, Angie Malone MBE, Robert McPherson, Aileen Neilson and Hugh Nibloe - maintained a 100% record throughout the event before taking on Canada’s Team Ideson in the final, beating them 6-5 to take the title in their final competitive outing before the ParalympicsGB wheelchair curling team is selected.
Their US Open win was part of the squad’s first trip across the Atlantic for several years and they started their campaign with success after they completed the Cathy Kerr International as winners of the B Road tournament. British Curling’s Head Wheelchair Coach Sheila Swan could not be more assured of the positive progress the squad is making in the build up to the Paralympic Games in March.
Swan said: “Great to sign off the first half of the season with a tournament win and very pleasing to score victories over the three Paralympic teams (Korea, USA and Canada) on route. We continued to rotate the squad throughout the tournament, and I am really pleased with their ability to deal with the changes, as well as coping with the tricky ice conditions – which was a wee bit slower than we are used to. Despite these challenges we put in a really solid performance throughout the tournament and came through a tough test against Canada in the final.”
Sochi bronze medallist Aileen Neilson, from Strathaven, who hopes to be selected to represent Great Britain again at the Paralympics next year feels that the timing of these results puts the squad in good stead. Neilson said: “Team Scotland is delighted with the results from our trip to Canada and USA and another very positive step on the road to Pyeongchang. Coming across the pond is always a great opportunity to catch up with old friends then battle it out on the ice. It was great to see lots of familiar faces but also lots of new players and it is fantastic to see the game continuing to grow, improve and develop both technically and tactically.
“The trip has also been a chance for us to build on our team dynamics which is a crucial element to our game. We had great support from our coach Sheila and our Physio Craig More, helping us to analyse our performance both on and off the ice in order for us to build on the consistency we are striving for,” she said.
That sentiment was echoed by Hugh Nibloe, from Stranraer, who is hoping to make his debut at the next Games, if selected.
“It’s been a great experience, a real chance to learn more about one and other. We’ve had a real opportunity to solidify the strong foundations we have built and tweak aspects of our game looking ahead to PyeongChang,” he said.
“To put wins on Canada, Korea and the USA with different line ups in our squad has shown how strong the group are and gives us a boost in confidence knowing that we can take on anyone, regardless of which players Sheila chooses to put on the ice.”.
Swan’s aim of rotating players throughout the tournaments to discern the best playing potential of the squad before selecting the ParalympicsGB Wheelchair team has clearly paid dividends at these events, as they begin the final phase of preparations.
Robert McPherson who hails from Bellshill, added: “These events were great preparation for the Paralympics, playing key opposition Korea, USA and Canada. Obviously now what we all want is to be selected, so we can compete against them again at the Games.”
Results from the Cathy Kerr International Bonspiel in Canada
Scotland v Canada (Team Gan) 9-5
Scotland v Canada (Team Brunet) 12-2
Scotland v Canada (Team Fitzgerald) 9-2
Scotland v Canada (Team Rees) 5-6
Scotland v Canada (Team Munro) 4-4
Scotland v Canada (Team Mellow) 5-3
Scotland v Canada (Team Munro) 9-1.
Results from the US Open International Wheelchair Bonspiel
Scotland v Korea (Team Seo) 8-2
Scotland v USA (Team Palmer) 10-4
Scotland v USA (Team Faircloth) 11-0
Scotland v USA (Team Greely) 5-3
Scotland v USA (Team Ernt) 5-3
Scotland v Canada (Team Ideson) 6-5.
John Doyle (Stonehouse)
Gregor Ewan (Elgin)
Angie Malone MBE (Glasgow)
Robert McPherson (Bellshill)
Aileen Neilson (Strathaven) – Skip
Hugh Nibloe (Stranraer)