Top accolade for Stirling wheelchair curling scholar

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hugh nibloe
Team Scotland at the awards (L-R): Gary Logan, Hugh Nibloe, Aileen Neilson, Robert McPherson and David Melrose. Credit: Sunday Mail.

University of Stirling sports scholar Hugh Nibloe is celebrating after winning a top award at the Sunday Mail sportscotland Scottish Sports Awards.

Scottish Wheelchair Curling star Nibloe won the Disability Award – alongside coach Sheila Swan and teammates Aileen Neilson, Robert McPherson and Gary Logan – in recognition of their silver medal at the 2019 World Championships.

The award comes at an exciting time for Nibloe who has recently taken over as skip of the Scotland Wheelchair Curling team. Reacting to the award, the 37-year-old said: “It is an incredible feeling to be part of the team that won the Disability Award at the Sunday Mail sportscotland Scottish Sports Awards.

“We’re incredibly proud of our performance at this year’s World Championships – and are looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together over the next 12 months.”

Team Scotland finished second in the World Wheelchair Curling Championships, hosted in Stirling in March, after losing 5-2 to China in the final. Nibloe had previously won bronze at the competition in 2017.

Nibloe is looking forward to an exciting year at the helm of the Scotland curling team – and is already relishing the thought of competing at the next Winter Paralympics. He skippered Scotland for the first time in September after taking over from Aileen Neilson and faces a busy start to 2020; travelling to Finland in January for the Kisakallion Open before flying to Switzerland in March for the World Championships.

Looking ahead to the Worlds in Switzerland, Nibloe said: “We will have a good chance at the competition – it is all about hitting the right form that week because there are about half-a-dozen teams that could medal.”

Curling opportunity

Nibloe, from Stranraer, was an Officer of the Watch in the Merchant Navy and a keen rugby player – but was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and lost the use of his legs at the age of 23. Until 2012, his only competitive outlet was playing dominoes; however, after accepting an offer to try wheelchair curling, he has never looked back.

Nibloe began a Sports Business degree at the University of Stirling in September after receiving a scholarship through the Winning Students programme – and juggles his studies with a busy training schedule, including regular sessions on the ice and in the gym.

“It has been really challenging, but really enjoyable,” said Nibloe. “I am enjoying learning and it gives me a huge distraction from curling – I try to do my reading when I’m away as it gives me something else to think about away from the rink.”

Reflecting on his recent promotion to skip, he said: “It is a great feeling to lead the country - it feels like a natural progression for me.

“If somebody had said to me seven years ago that I would be playing competitive curling and travelling the world, I wouldn’t have believed them. I was forced to retire from my work and had only been playing dominoes – that had an impact on my mental health and I got into a bad way, staying in the house most of the time. But I accepted the chance to try curling and I really enjoyed it – it’s all about conquering your fears.”

Nibloe has set his sights on competing at his second Winter Paralympics in Beijing in 2022. He hopes that, on graduating in 2023, to pursue a career as a performance sports analyst.

The University of Stirling has been Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence since 2008 and is The Times / Sunday Times Good University Guide’s UK Sports University of the Year 2020. The University offers an unrivalled all-round environment for excellence in sport: education, research, participation, and performance.