WHEELCHAIR curler Aileen Neilson will represent Great Britain at the Paralympic Games in Vancouver this week as Team GB open their account.
And in the first instalment of her Paralympic Diary, the Strathaven women talks about her arrival in Canada and looks ahead to the first match of the campaign against the hosts on Saturday.
AILEEN Neilson – athlete – Great Britain.
It was quite a surreal moment, but this was when I knew I had arrived at the Paralympic Games.
Picking up my accreditation card for the Games was an amazing feeling and when I saw my name on that card with the Paralympic emblem on it, I knew I was ready to enjoy and savour every moment of my time in Vancouver.
It was last Saturday that we arrived in the Olympic Village, but we had come a long way before that.
We left for Vancouver on Wednesday, March 3. Having met at Edinburgh Airport at 10.30am we travelled down to Heathrow then boarded our plane to Vancouver. I managed to put in the nine-and-a-half-hour flight by reading and watching a couple of films: Home Alone – you are never too old for that one – and Erin Brockovich.
But the squad arrived in Vancouver at 7pm local time and, after all the hard work, training and preparation, it was hard to believe we were finally here. We had to stay in a holding camp until the Olympic Village was ready on the Saturday and we all hit the sack as soon as we arrived at the Executive Hotel.
The next day it was clear to see that Vancouver have made a real effort. Everywhere you look there are flowers, beautifully kept gardens, hanging baskets and Canadian flags flying from car windows, offices and apartment blocks.
Curling is a huge sport in Canada, and I was amazed by how many people spoke to us and wished us well when they heard we were in Vancouver to complete in the wheelchair curling event. It appears that the tickets for our games have been selling well so, hopefully, it will be a sell-out crowd at each of the games, which will create an electric atmosphere.
We competed at the same venue last year, at the World Championships, but somehow I have a feeling that this event is going to be like no other I have ever experienced.
For four years, we've been working towards this event and it was a fantastic feeling to eventually arrive at the Village. As one of the first teams to arrive, we could soak up the atmosphere and wheel round the various areas in the afternoon sunshine.
There is an area available where athletes and staff can access the internet and we also made a quick visit to the Paralympic store where merchandise can be purchased – although with the amount of kit I received, I don't think I will have to buy any new clothes for years.
Moments later my accreditation badge was handed over to me and that’s when it really hit home that I was here to compete in the Paralympics.
And as the first match gets closer and closer – and as this is my first Paralympic Games – I have pictures in my mind as to what it might be like and I am sure it will surpass all my expectations and more.
I can't wait to get started!