“I think silver was an outstanding outcome for the team. Going into the worlds we were still trying to gel, still trying to learn each other’s traits, how to get on and how to motivate each other.”
It was quite the World Championship debut for Scotland wheelchair curling rookie David Melrose. Not only did he get the chance to compete on home soil in Stirling, Great Britain, but he was a key part of the team as they sailed all the way to silver.
“It’s the best experience of my life, sporting-wise,” he said simply.
Melrose only picked up curling four years ago but was soon hooked. He was called up to the Scottish team last August and in October made his international debut.
Melrose, along with teammates Aileen Neilson, Hugh Nibloe, Robert McPherson and Gary Logan, made it to the final of their home Words – losing to China in a tense final cheered on by a packed crowd of spectators.
“I think silver was an outstanding outcome for the team,” Melrose says. “Going into the worlds we were still trying to gel, still trying to learn each other’s traits, how to get on and how to motivate each other.”
Scotland’s first win in the competition was their third game, against Germany, but they went on to win seven out of 11 round-robin games and beat 2017 champions Norway in the semi-final.
Playing on the big stage
Although Melrose played semi-professional football and golf before being paralysed in an accident in 2010, he says he is still getting used to being described as an athlete and benefitting from the support that comes with being part of a national team.
“Getting into the programme has totally changed the way I live and the way I look at things,” he says. “It has changed my life in almost every aspect of my life.”
Since joining the Scottish team, Melrose has been focusing on learning the tactics of curling. His delivery style has changed and he is getting to grips with the nuances of the sport and how to control a game.
The key game for Scotland at the world championship, says Melrose, was the semi-final against Norway, where the experience of his teammates was crucial to engineer the 7-3 win.
Skip Neilson, Nibloe and McPherson all won bronze at the 2017 world championships and competed at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, where they finished seventh.
“I just try and focus on the fact it’s just a shot I’ve played before,” Melrose says of his mindset during the key matches like the semi-final.
Heading into the gold medal match, Scotland knew Paralympic champions China would be tough opponents.
“China had been playing great all week, and they’re worthy champions,” Melrose says. “We probably didn’t play our top game. I felt I didn’t play quite as well as I could have.
“It’s my first experience of anything like that,” he adds of the final. “It’s quite daunting but you just have to try and focus on playing your shots and playing your game.”
Although Melrose says that he probably felt more relaxed in the final than the semi-final, thanks to knowing that either a silver or gold medal was secure, he admits there was still pressure.
“Silver’s nice, but when you get the opportunity at something like that you want to win the gold,” he says.
The Scottish team are now looking ahead to the next two years of world championships and ultimately the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.
“We know the standard we must reach,” Melrose says. “We wouldn’t want to go there without wanting to compete and collect a medal.”