Words by Colette Carr
History making Team GB skip Aileen Neilson is hoping to make more wheelchair curling history as she heads to South Korea for her fourth Paralympics.
Skipping the team for the third time, the Scot is targeting nothing short of peak performance in PyeongChang.
“As a squad we want to go in and perform at our best,” the schoolteacher began.
“We want to work to peak in March and our first goal will be to make the play-offs(semi-finals). We then will set the target to make the podium, and obviously every athlete dreams of the gold medal round their neck.”
Having already forged her name in the record books having become the first woman to skip at either the Paralympics or World Championships, Neilson is preparing to lead the British team to greater success than their bronze in 2014.
“All four positions in a curling team are absolutely crucial but it’s a real honour to skip the team.
“We sleep, eat and curl. We’re off to Finland for an international competition where we’ll meet teams that are going to South Korea, so that will be good to get competitive games against good teams,” she said.
The team features a blend of youth and experience, with decorated Paralympians Angie Malone, Gregor Ewan and Robert McPherson and debutant Hugh Nibloe, who will all bring something different to the ice according to Neilson.
“We’ve all came into the team with varying degrees of experience and bring different things to help each other cope as best we can but I think nothing can really prepare you for it. People can ask, “how do you cope?”. We can’t go to an ice rink somewhere in the world and recreate the Paralympic Games though, you really have to be there to experience it.
“You just need to try and block that out and treat every training session like a Paralympic game and a Paralympic game as a training session to try and not let something get out of proportion. You just need to train yourself to stick to your routine that will come out in an important situation.”
Curling offers something different to other fast and furious Winter events, adding an element of tension to the games bringing viewers to the edges of their seats, something Neilson wants to capitalise on.
“We want spectators to feel like they are on the ice with us.
“I often say curling is about 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical because of all the tactical things you have to think about in the shots you need to play, but also the distractions and having that right mindset to distract yourself from the distractions,” she told.