Life-changing wheelchair curling journey takes Nibloe all the way to Paralympic Games

Nibloe was part of the Paralympics Inspiration Programme at Sochi 2014

Paralympic Games-bound Hugh Nibloe didn’t even want to leave the house after his multiple sclerosis diagnosis 12 years ago, writes Ross Lawson in PyeongChang.

But in a sport that started out as release from the difficulties of his illness and everyday life, the Stranraer wheelchair curler has taken it to the extreme to become a Paralympian.

In just a few days Nibloe will release his first stone in PyeongChang, the end of a four-year Paralympics journey that started with a place in the inspiration programme at the Sochi 2014 Games.

To say that wheelchair curling is already a life-changing endeavour wouldn’t be too extreme for the former rugby player, now looking to transform his experiences onto the biggest stage.

“Sport was always big for me, I was a full-back in a decent rugby team at a public school and I was always amongst the five-a-side team in the merchant navy,” he said.

“But the diagnosis took that all away, I was never going to be anything but it’s always in the back of your head about what you could do in sport.

“It really hurt, I became a bit of a recluse and didn’t want to leave the house, it was pretty devastating.

“Looking back now you can see a bigger impact that what it might have been, I totally lost my confidence.

“I was scared to go anywhere, I was scared to even watch sport but that’s all changed now thanks to curling, what I’ve discovered through the sport and it’s amazing.

“It felt bad, but the fact I wasn’t given a terminal illness gave me a bit of hope – then a few weeks passed and it was then when I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to do things again.

“That was tough to take and it kept me quite low for a few years.”

At 36, Nibloe is the unlikely baby in the ParalympicsGB squad, with Gregor Ewan, Bob McPherson, Angie Malone and skip Aileen Neilson all part of the bronze-medal winning side from four years ago.

Watching them take their place on the podium proved the catalyst moment for the Stranraer athlete to desire accolades of his own, already becoming a World Championship bronze medallist.

Though for Nibloe there is a sense more is still to come.

For now he is content to make sure every stone on the curling rink is as positive as it can be, determined to make sure regrets are at a minimum by the time he boards the plane home.

He added: “It’s been more of a rollercoaster than a smooth ride but that dream is always there, you always work hard and once you get back up you just keep going.

“What has always stuck with me is not having any regrets, don’t sit there and thinking what you could have done or should have done, it was always about trying and keeping working hard.

“By the time it got to 2012 I was dreaming of playing for Scotland, but then when it came to Sochi, you saw the size of it and realised where you wanted to be.

“For the past three-and-a-half years it’s been quite easy to keep the focus of that, I know that tunnel of where I wanted to be so it was about keeping my head screwed on and working hard towards that. Hopefully it pays off in March.”

Sainsbury’s is a proud long-term supporter of the British Paralympic Association and a champion of inclusive sport for all. For more information on Sainsbury’s commitment to inclusive sport visit http://www.j-sainsbury.co.uk/