AILEEN NEILSON has won bronze and silver medals in wheelchair curling but, after being given the chance to carry the Paralympic Torch, the Strathaven star is hoping it can help light a path to a long-awaited gold.
The 40-year-old Bent Primary School teacher – who skippered the Scotland team at the World Wheelchair Curling Championships in 2007 and 2011 – now has fixed her focus on glory at the 2014 Winter Paralympics after she was chosen to carry the torch.
Neilson, who was left in a wheelchair after a tumour was removed from her spine as a toddler, was nominated as a torchbearer for her dedication and enthusiasm for teaching, her sporting success, and fundraising for the Oncology Unity at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow.
And the Avondale Heather Curling Club member (pictured below) couldn’t be happier, admitting: “I am really delighted to be part of the Paralympic Games.
“It will be good to meet the other people involved because my sport is a Winter Paralympic sport, so I wouldn’t otherwise be involved in a summer Games, so it’s lovely to feel part of it.
“Hopefully the crowds will be out to cheer on the torchbearers but just to be there and soak up the atmosphere will be great.
“Curling has been part of my family’s life for a long time.
“I got involved with a local club and I used to play every weekend for enjoyment. I watched four members win a gold medal in 2005 and decided I didn’t want to be watching I’d like to be in the team.
“I put in a lot of time, training and effort to be selected for Scotland for the first time in 2007 when we got the bronze medal at the World Championships in Sweden.
“In 2011, I was skipper in the Czech Republic when we got a silver medal, and now I’m looking for the gold to complete the set.”
Neilson, who was nominated to carry the torch through the Bank of Scotland’s public nomination campaign, got to grips with the flame and her role in the torch relay at the Mound in Edinburgh last Friday ahead of the lighting of Scotland’s flame on Sunday, August 26.
And she added: “I’ve been very fortunate to be involved in British sport and travel all over the world competing for my country.
“I do love going into schools and speaking about my sport – a lot of people think a disability means you can’t do things but using a wheelchair opened up a whole new world to me, and I think the Olympics and Paralympic Games will highlight a lot of sports that are always in the press, and some that you don’t always see and will inspire lots of children to get involved with sport.”
As the only National Presenting Partner of the London 2012 Paralympic Torch Relay, Bank of Scotland is bringing the excitement of the Games and Paralympic Flame closer to you.
Find out more at www.bankofscotland.co.uk/paralympicflame.