DEBUTS GALORE AS SCOTLAND HEAD INTO WORLD WHEELCHAIR CHAMPS
Hugh Nibloe is looking forward to making a fourth appearance at the World Wheelchair Curling Championships when they get underway this Saturday, however this will be the first time that he has led Team Scotland into action at this level as skip (29 February – 7 March 2020).
As he prepares for this new challenge, Nibloe believes he can draw upon his past experience of competing at the Swiss venue when Scotland open their campaign against Russia.
“I am very familiar with the venue at Wetzikon, having played there a lot so, hopefully that will work to our advantage in the coming week,” he said.
“It will be my first time as skip at a Worlds, which is a really exciting prospect. We know other teams have also re-jigged their formations, Canada is one of those and they will be out to prove a point this year. However we need to concentrate on our own team, we all have our jobs to do and we will pull together as we know every game is going to be tough this week.”
Scotland won silver when hosting the World Champs in Stirling last year and Nibloe and fellow Paralympian Robert McPherson have retained their places in this year’s line-up. They are joined by three debutants, Charlotte McKenna, Meggan Dawson-Farrell as alternate and late call-up Gary Smith, who replaced David Melrose due to an injury.
“We have lots of fresh talent in the team this year and their enthusiasm and excitement has added to my own enjoyment in the build up to this event,” said 38 year old Nibloe, who now resides in Stirling, close to the National Curling Academy where the team trains.
“Obviously competing in a home champs last year was incredibly special. Stirling did a great job, so it will be interesting to see how Switzerland follows that. This event will be special in a different way, with new players coming through and this is a great opportunity for them. They have all worked incredibly hard in training, so they just need to put that into action, re-create those performances and ignore the distractions.
“We have an excellent support team with us with a wealth of experience and expertise to draw upon, so we have a good combination which we need to make work for us as we take on the world’s best. It is good to be in that company.”
12 teams will compete in the round robin phase which starts Saturday until Thursday 5 March, followed by a six team play-off. The top two teams progress to the semi finals while the team ranked third will meet the team ranked sixth and the team ranked fourth will meet the team ranked fifth for the right to join them in the semi finals.
Head Coach Sheila Swan is keen that her team is in the mix at the business end of the week having already undergone a challenging season.
“I think it is fair to say that it has been a fairly interrupted season in the build up to his event, but injuries and illness are an inevitable part of Para sport and despite those challenges we have continued our preparations for this event, where our first job is to qualify for the World’s next year,” she said.
“From there we will aim for a top six finish and then we will target what everyone here is also aiming for, to take each of the three final games one at a time and to come out on the right side of them.”
Winter Paralympic qualifying points are accrued over a three year period in the build up to Beijing 2022, so Scotland are looking to add to the impressive start they made to that process when finishing runners up to Paralympic Champions China in last year’s final.
Hugh Nibloe (Stirling)
Robert McPherson (Bellshill)
Gary Smith (Edinburgh)
Charlotte McKenna (Bridge of Allan)
Meggan Dawson-Farrell – Alternate (Tullibody)
Please click here for more information on the World Wheelchair Curling Championships.
Images : Graeme Hart - far below - WCF / Alina Pavlyuchik