Neilson hoping to inspire more female curlers on the rocky road to PyeongChang
The four years between Sochi and PyeongChang have passed in a blur but for Aileen Neilson, it’s been one rocky rollercoaster ride.
Neilson skipped ParalympicsGB’s mixed wheelchair curlers to bronze in Russia – Great Britain’s sixth and final medal of the 2014 Games.
But the following year saw their fortunes turned upside down. Relegation to the World ‘B’ Championships ensued, they failed to regain promotion back to the top flight and PyeongChang qualification looked in doubt.
But one of their many strengths is its never-say-die attitude and that came to the fore a year ago.
Silver at the World ‘B’ Championships saw them return to where they belong, with Winter Paralympic qualification secured and their seats on the plane to PyeongChang booked.
But athletes always want more and earlier this year, Neilson and co won world bronze, reaffirming their place among the very best in the world – and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“We’ve had some real highs, coming back from Sochi with a bronze medal, but we’ve also had some real lows too,” said Neilson.
“In 2015, we were relegated but we proved that with hard work, determination and resilience, we can bounce back.
“We won a silver in the World ‘B’ Championships and then came back with a bronze at the ‘A’ Championships, and that was a real message not just to ourselves, but to everyone out there.
“We worked really hard and I think if we continue to do that, then let’s hope there’s a place on the podium for us in PyeongChang.
“To then get the bronze was a real boost for our confidence and it made us realise that all the hard work we had put in had paid off.”
"It's a huge privilege and honour for me to be skip. Hopefully I can inspire other females to see there's no reason why they can't do it too." Aileen Neilson
The wheelchair curling season is already in full swing, with more silverware already secured by Neilson’s rink with silver at October’s Stirling International.
This month will see them head across the pond to compete in Canada and America, valuable playing experience that will hopefully see them hit peak performance in time for PyeongChang.
The 2018 Games will mark Neilson’s third Paralympics, having competed in Vancouver and Sochi, but any potential medals aren’t just for personal gain – it’s for the future of her sport and getting more to follow in her path.
“It’s good to get back into the competition season. We’re playing a lot of the teams that are going to be at the Paralympics so it’s an exciting time for us,” she said.
“This is a real learning phase for us at the moment, which will hopefully build and peak at the right time in PyeongChang.
“Representing Great Britain has given me some of the biggest highlights of my career, especially skipping the team to bronze in Sochi.
“It’s a huge privilege and honour for me to be skip. I was the first female to skip at a World Championships or Paralympics so hopefully I can inspire other females to see there’s no reason why they can’t do it too.
“Nothing is impossible, if you want something bad enough then you can get it if you put in the work.”