“All the teams that go to the worlds or the Paralympics are all working hard, training hard and they all want to win."
Aileen Neilson will be the only female skip on the ice in Sochi, Russia, when the World Curling Championships begin on Saturday (16 February), and she hopes her appearance there will influence more women to take up the sport.
Neilson skipped Scotland to a World Championship silver medal in 2011, and she thinks that more of her gender can do the same in the future.
“It’s something that I’ve been doing for a couple of years and I’m sure there are lots of females out there who are quite able to do it,” she said.
“I have a great team and I’m really looking forward to next week.”
The 41-year-old primary school teacher comes from a family of curlers and first heard of wheelchair curling when local coaches told her about a club she could attend.
“The children I teach had a chance to go and try curling and one of the coaches spotted me. He asked if I had a wheelchair because a wheelchair curling club had started in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, and I took off from there.”
Neilson went on to make her Paralympic debut at the Vancouver 2010 Games.
Now, she is looking forward to competing at the World Championships, which is also the test event for Sochi 2014 and runs from 16-23 February.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “This event is obviously a test event for the Paralympics next year and we hope to be back next year for that competition.
“It will be great to see the kind of venue, experience the travel that it involves to get there and take part in this competition and hopefully look forward to next year.”
Despite finishing eighth at last year’s World Championships, Neilson thinks Scotland can climb back to the top of the rankings.
“All the teams that go to the worlds or the Paralympics are all working hard, training hard and they all want to win.
“Scotland has been improving all the time and we hope to be back up to the top of that list again.”
Scotland’s skip also hopes the Sochi Games will build on the amount of coverage and publicity athletes at London 2012 received as a stepping-stone to develop future curlers.
“I think an Olympics or Paralympics is on a totally different scale and people might appreciate that more now having witnessed London 2012,” she said.
“I think disabled athletes have had great coverage on television and we know that the publicity that we’ve had over the last couple of Paralympics is improving and increasing all the time. If that brings a few more people to the sport then that can only be good.”