AFTER watching ParalympicsGB’s 2014 wheelchair curling team win bronze from the stands in Sochi, Hugh Nibloe is hoping to take home his own medal after being selected for his second Winter Games in Beijing.
As part of wheelchair curling's Inspiration programme in 2014 - just two years after taking up the sport - Nibloe watched in awe as Great Britain beat China 7-3 to claim a Paralympic bronze medal in Russia.
But four years later on his debut, the Scot was unable to match the performance he had watched with such admiration, returning home empty-handed after the team finished seventh in the round-robin stages and failed to qualify for the knockout phase.
Stranraer curler Nibloe, 40, was officially selected in ParalympicsGB’s five-strong wheelchair curling team alongside fellow PyeongChang teammate Gregor Ewan and debutants Meggan Dawson-Farrell, David Melrose and alternate Charlotte McKenna.
And they sound quite the gang to be a part of.
"Gregor and I are now the experienced ones, and for everyone else it's their first so it's created a nice feeling and a good mix,” said Nibloe, who is one of over 1,000 who are able to train full-time, access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to vital National Lottery funding.
"It sounds cheesy, but you get to live the excitement through them for their anticipation to go to their first Paralympics. We've bonded as a group so well and everyone in the team has their roles - Gregor's the loud, happy, clappy one, I'm the quiet, contemplative one, Meggan's always got a smile, David always has a story to tell and Charlie's always happy to help out.
"We're a great team and we've got so many strengths, and with weaknesses, someone else is able to help. I'm really happy with the team and I'm looking forward to seeing us all in action in a few weeks’ time.
"I got to go out to Sochi and experience a bit of the Paralympics - I had only started curling in 2012 so it was great learning from the 2014 squad and hearing their experiences. It added to my drive and hopefully I'll be able to do the same for the next people coming in.
"I learned how good curling is by watching it in 2014, but I learned how to play in front of a full house in 2018."
Nibloe has gone on to claim success in the World Wheelchair Curling Championships, winning bronze in 2017 and silver in 2019 in front of a home crowd, and was able to get a taste of the Beijing Paralympics in 2021 by playing in the same venue.
"I think competing in the venue was key,” added Nibloe, who is aiming to add to the 1,000-plus medals achieved by British athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding to elite sport in 1997.
“I know what to expect and know we won't have to worry about Covid. We'll be safe and can just concentrate on our sport when we're there.
"Winning a world silver in Scotland in 2019 was great. My mum and dad were able to see it, which was so nice. It was the first host World Championships since 2005 and so it's not like it happens very often. Having Scottish fans in the stands were brilliant.
"But still going to the Paralympics in 2018 is what I remember as a standout moment and going to PyeongChang is the highlight of my career and hopefully Beijing will take over that.
"2018 was incredible. The Paralympics is the pinnacle of our sport so it's what we train for for four years, more or less.
“I'm looking forward to putting the Union Jack on and representing our country. I love putting my Scotland top on, but once every four years, representing Great Britain is so exciting. I can't wait to get my playing kit on!
"Most athletes get to go once in a lifetime to a Paralympics – so to go at least twice is worth every minute."
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