My name is Stewart Pimblett, I’ve been in a wheelchair for 36 years with spinal injuries due to a road traffic accident when I was 9 years old.
I’ve been involved in elite level wheelchair sports for more than 25 years. My involvement in wheelchair basketball took me from playing in junior U19 championships, to domestic and European club competitions, to being a Great Britain international, to forming and running my own club and becoming a fully qualified coach with both junior and senior teams. I was also a serving board member of the Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball Association (2009-13).
In 2010, in my twilight years of basketball, I took up the opportunity to try wheelchair curling. I liked the game and after asking around the area, discovered that there was enough interest to form a team (Northern Ice) and start entering domestic tournaments. It was at this point that I realised geography was and remains the biggest single obstacle to the domestic and international aspirations of the team and its players.
Most of Northern Ice’s 10 members are from the Northumberland, Tyne & Wear & Cumbria, and unfortunately the nearest curling rink is Kelso. With availability limited there, we also access the rink in Lockerbie, Dumfries and occasionally use the rink at Stirling which is a four hour drive away. All of the domestic competitions are held in Scotland. The distances we have to travel severely limit the amount of time we can practice. Mostly we are restricted to two hours of precious ice-time per week. In spite of these obstacles, some of my team mates and I have been identified by the England Curling Association and the hope is that we can represent England at the 2015 World Wheelchair curling qualifying tournament in Lohja, Finland. If we manage to finish in the top two, this will enter us into the finals. Once we have competed internationally we would then be eligible for Great Britain selection. This is where our ultimate ambition lies, to represent Great Britain at the 2018 Winter Paralympics.
Last season we started to show our potential at most of the domestic tournaments we entered into. We are hoping that we might be able to bring some trophies back across the border to Geordie-land this coming season!
In order to help you get a flavour for the sport of wheelchair curling I’m attaching a couple of links on our Charity web-site Cumbria Wheelchair Sports Club of which we are part of.
By Stewart Pimblett