The ParalympicsGB curling squad get their Canadian and US campaign underway at the Cathy Kerr International Bonspiel tomorrow (24-26 November) which will be their last major international tour before the team is selected for the Paralympic Games in PyeongChang next year.
British Curling Head Wheelchair Coach Sheila Swan believes that both the Canadian and US Open event in Utica will provide the perfect competition conditions as the 100 days to go milestone gets closer.
“The plan is to test out different combinations of players at these events so they will get used to playing in different positions although largely we will look to keep Aileen Neilson as skip and rotate the others throughout the two events.
“This will really help us to discern the best playing potential of this squad so this process is really about optimising performances out of this group,” said Swan.
“Obviously having a testing ground at events out here is ideal as the standard is always high from club level upwards, so this is ideal at this stage of preparations as we build towards the Paralympics selection in December.”
Swan added: “It’s been a few years since a British Curling wheelchair team has been across the Atlantic so it will be an interesting gauge of where we are at in terms of Games readiness.”
Sochi medallist Angie Malone who recently received her MBE for services to wheelchair curling is relishing the prospect of competing across the water and competing with old acquaintances and friends, whilst Hugh Nibloe who has joined the team since the last Paralympic cycle is keen to make his debut as a competitor stateside.
Nibloe said: “I’m really looking forward to competing out here, it’ll be my first visit as a curler having previously been to both Canada and the U.S. as a sailor.
“It’s a great opportunity to put in to practice what we’ve been working on at the National Curling Academy to prepare us for competing against some of our Paralympic opponents as well as some of the best club teams in the world."
Aileen Neilson who skipped the team to bronze at the 2014 Paralympic Games is also keen that the team puts in a strong performance which will serve as a marker to other teams gearing up for PyeongChang and she hopes also to fulfil her dream of being selected to represent ParalympicsGB again.
Neilson said: ”The squad have been working hard over the last few weeks as this will be a great opportunity for lots of games against high quality teams - exactly what we are needing in preparation for the Paralympics."
Click here for more information and results from the Cathy Kerr International Bonspiel.
John Doyle (Stonehouse)
Gregor Ewan (Elgin)
Angie Malone MBE (Glasgow)
Robert McPherson (Bellshill)
Aileen Neilson (Strathaven) – Skip
Hugh Nibloe (Stranraer)