Published: 04/03/2018 06:00 - Updated: 06/03/2018 11:27

Gregor goes for Paralympics gold

Written byCraig Christie

Paralympic wheelchair curler Gregor Ewan with his family at his Elgin home
Paralympic wheelchair curler Gregor Ewan with his family at his Elgin home
FITTER, leaner and even more eager for success, Moray's Winter Paralympics hopeful is going for gold in South Korea.

Wheelchair curler Gregor Ewan (46) flew out to Pyeongchang with Team GB this week, dreaming of an even greater achievement than the bronze medal he won in Sochi four years ago.

A new approach to health and nutrition has seen Gregor lose more than three stones since his "brilliant" achievement in Russia, and he feels better than ever about his latest bid for international sporting glory.

"When we came back from Sochi we did a team debrief where we spoke about what we did well and what we didn't," Gregor recalls. "For me, what I didn't do well was with nutrition.

"In the lead-up to Sochi we had nutritionists available to us but I didn't really use them. This time I have and so has everybody in the team, and I've lost probably 20 kilos.

"It's a big difference, I definitely feel better and healthier, I stopped smoking and I go twice to the gym minimum every week.

Severe spinal injuries sustained in an accident turned Gregor's life upside down more than a decade ago. But taking up curling along with Lossiemouth pal Jim Gault as part of the Moray Wheelchair Curling Club turned out to be the best thing he ever did. The pair are now three-time Scottish champions and have travelled the world with the Scotland team.

The pinnacle of Gregor and Jim's career came when they were selected for the Winter Paralympics in 2014.

Winning through the tense group stages, they lost their semi-final to hosts Russia in front of 3500 partisan home supporters.

However, the Moray pair became sporting greats when they helped Britain beat China 7-3 in the bronze play-off match, returning to a heroes' welcome in London and an audience with then Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street.

While ill-health has prevented Jim from making this year's Team GB, Gregor joins 2014 skip Aileen Neilson and two more members of that team from four years ago.

Lead Bob McPherson and veteran Angie Malone, who also won silver in Turin 12 years ago and is competing in her fourth Winter Games.

Vice-skip Hugh Nibloe is the only member of the five-strong team to be making a first appearance at the Paralympics.

Britain will play 11 other countries over a hectic schedule of round-robin games in the Gangneung Curling Centre, beginning a week on Saturday.

Gregor revealed how squad preparations for the competition have been intense, led by head coach Sheila Swan. Team GB will play two matches a day on five consecutive days, meaning long hours at the venue.

"We are travelling 55 minutes on a bus from up in the alpine village down to the curling rink every day, then back up at night.

"We can have a nine o'clock game in the morning and a seven o'clock game at night so it's going to be really long days. But when we've been training in Stirling we've been doing exactly the same, playing early and again at night so we've got that same experience.

"We have tried to cover every aspect of what we are going to get when we go out there."

His sport is always evolving and Gregor studies endless hours of curling videos to pick up on the latest strategies.

He also travels up and down the road to Stirling to attend regular Scotland camps. "I see my curling family more than my own family now," he said. "You make the sacrifices to do the sport.

"But it's been a brilliant experience on its own. I've been to some countries through curling that I wouldn't have dreamed I'd get to." Gregor has also played at the Gangneung ice rink in PyeongChang before, at last year's world championships where he won bronze for Scotland.

That experience has prepared him for the noisy atmosphere which will be created at the Games.

"The Koreans had the two tubes which they clap together, so they know how to make an atmosphere and we will be ready for that. We've been working a lot on hand signals to deal with the noise in the stadium."

Gregor watched the recent Winter Olympics on TV, seeing Britain's able-bodied curlers narrowly miss out on medals as the ladies team finished fourth and the men missed out on a medal game by virtue of a play-off.

He says the British international curling set-up means all able-bodied and wheelchair curlers train together and are very much part of a one-team philosophy, so he felt the disappointment experienced by Eve Muirhead and Kyle Smith's rinks.

"I said four years ago I wanted the gold next time but that's what every country is striving to do.

"We've got a great team so it is within our grasp so we've got to aim for it.

"Going to Sochi I didn't know what to expect because it was my first Paralympics but with having that experience now I know what to expect.

"One thing I can promise is that we will do our very best."

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