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British Curling has announced the Programme Wheelchair Squad for 2019-20, as the Wheelchair Curlers prepare for the second year of the Paralympic cycle building towards Beijing in 2022.

Four members of Scotland’s silver medal winning team at the World Wheelchair Curling Championships earlier this year are among those selected to receive Programme support and investment. David Melrose and Gary Logan made their debut at the World Championships when it was hosted in Stirling, having joined the Programme for the first time at the start of that season.

Melrose, who was a former fire-fighter, said he was delighted to have been selected to the Programme for a second consecutive year.

“My first year on the Programme was pretty meteoric, experiencing the routine, discipline and team work required for squad training and tactical work, plus gym sessions and focusing on nutrition to optimise performance was all very new to me. It was a steep learning curve and extremely rewarding when I was selected for the Scotland team and the highlight of reaching the final and playing against China’s Paralympic Champions was something I could never have imagined possible and shows what can be achieved in the fast moving environment of elite sport.

“Curling gave me a renewed purpose after my accident, the Programme taught me about self-discipline and effective team dynamics. Combined with a lot of hard work and effort, the impossible becomes possible and dreams become a reality, last year’s result shows us that any goal is achievable.”

Fellow debutant Gary Logan, who was alternate at those Championships, agrees with his teammate’s sentiment: “I am extremely grateful to have been selected for my second year on the Programme. It made a huge difference to my curling and the experience of a home World Championships has spurred each and every one of us on to achieve more success in the season to come.”

Fellow World silver medallists and PyeongChang Paralympians Hugh Nibloe and Robert McPherson – who was also a member of the 2014 ParalympicsGB bronze medal winning team - are the two most experienced members of the squad. A notable omission this year is Sochi bronze medallist Aileen Neilson who, after skipping her rink to a sterling podium finish in Stirling whilst making her ninth appearance at a World Wheelchair Championships, has decided to take some time out from the elite game. 

Neilson said: “I have been in the squad for 14 years and our success at Stirling helped us to accrue qualifying points at the next Paralympics and it really gave me an opportunity to reflect on achievements over the years. I decided that by taking some time out I could enjoy some quality time with family and those close to me and also explore other avenues and projects.

“I am a qualified Level 1 Coach and Tutor and as a former primary school teacher I want the chance to go into schools and inspire kids and the next generation of curlers, so really this is my time and chance to give back a bit to the sport I love,” she added. 

Gary Smith and Charlotte McKenna, both of whom were on the Performance Foundation Squad last season, have worked hard to achieve Performance level support this year, while newcomer Rebekah Nimmo completes the line-up, supported at Performance Foundation level.

British Curling’s Head Wheelchair Coach Sheila Swan said; “Congratulations to all of those who have been selected for Performance or Performance Foundation support. Last year’s success in Stirling created a benchmark for all of our athletes as we now look to continue that upward trajectory whilst targeting further titles in the season ahead, consolidating our progression in this Beijing Paralympic cycle.”

Performance squad 2019-20
Gary Smith (Edinburgh)
Robert McPherson (Bellshill)
Hugh Nibloe (Stranraer)
David Melrose (Duns)
Charlotte McKenna (Bridge of Allan)
Gary Logan (Cornhill on Tweed)

Performance Foundation 2019-20
Rebekah Nimmo – (Stranraer)

Pics: WCF / Tom Rowland and Celine Stucki, Perthshire Picture Agency - Graeme Hart

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