University of Stirling students, Scott Meenagh and Hugh Nibloe, are set to test themselves against the world’s best para-athletes this month as they represent ParalympicsGB at the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games.
Both athletes have a packed schedule over the 10 day event with Meenagh having already achieved ninth and twelfth place finishes in the para biathlon (sprint) and para cross country (long) events over the opening weekend. Nibloe, meanwhile, has started the round-robin stage of the Mixed Wheelchair Curling event with wins against the United States and Switzerland whilst missing out against Norway and Slovakia.
It’s been an incredible sporting journey for the athletes, who both made their Paralympic debuts in Pyeongchang back in 2018, and they’re looking to draw on their respective experiences when in Beijing.
Having been diagnosed with MS in 2006, Sport Business Management student, Nibloe, has used a wheelchair since 2010 and took up wheelchair curling in 2012 following a chat in the pub with the local coach in his hometown of Stranraer.
After first representing Scotland in 2015, Nibloe went on to compete in his first Games in 2018 and believes his time in Pyeongchang has helped prepare the team for the biggest stage for their sport.
He said: “I learned a lot in Pyeongchang and experienced playing in front of crowds and things that we’re not used to in wheelchair curling.”
In Beijing, the team are aware of the quality of opposition but are still aiming to make their mark.
Nibloe added: “We’ll just try and win our first game and then we’ll set a target to try and finish in the top four to make the semi-finals.
“And then, hopefully, after that we can be there and get a medal.”
Former British paratrooper, Meenagh, was injured in Afghanistan in 2011 and worked his way back to sport originally via rowing in which he competed at three Invictus Games. His strengths were then directed towards sit skiing and he went on to make history at Pyeongchang 2018 as Britain’s first ever athlete to compete in the discipline at a Paralympic Games.
Meenagh believes this experience has set him up well to go into the 2022 with real confidence. He said: “Having been given the opportunity to go to Pyeongchang in 2018 as Britain’s first ever sit skier at a Games, I now feel very fortunate to have had (done so) and I feel I’m going into Beijing very much armed (to succeed).
“I’m really excited to go out, get tapered, get out there and race hard and, yeah, (I’m) buzzing.”
Commenting on the selections, University of Stirling Executive Director of Sport, Cathy Gallagher, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that Hugh and Scott have been selected for ParalympicsGB to compete at the forthcoming Winters Paralympics.
“Like many athletes, Hugh and Scott have both had to return to training and competition after the disruption of the last couple of years and now they have reached the pinnacle of their career.
“On behalf of everyone at the University of Stirling, I would like to wish Hugh and Scott all the very, very best at the Winter Paralympics. We’ll all be rooting for them, albeit from afar, but we really look forward to cheering them on.”
Nibloe and Meenagh are part of the University’s International Sports Scholarship programme which supports high performance athletes combine training and competing with academic studies.
Commenting on the support he has received, Nibloe said: “From the University, I’ve had extensions to things, I’ve had tutoring. They’ve went over and above to make sure that’s been achievable.”
The flexibility also works for Meenagh, who regularly travels for training and competitions, and he believes studying offers a balance to his intense schedule and security in the long-term.
He said: “I think for me, it’s just a great switch off, really helps me balance that sport kind of life but also it gives me real confidence and assurance that I know that I’m planting seeds for my future and, actually, it gives me a lot of comfort within my sporting career to make the very most of it now.”