How crushing disappointment turned to cherished Paralympic dream

For Lossiemouth’s Jim Gault the last few weeks must have seemed like he was living through a dream.

Having been a member of the Scotland wheelchair curling squad for several years, Jim had to face the crushing disappointment of not making the final cut for the Paralympic Games in Russia last month.

Admitting that he was seriously thinking about giving the sport up, Jim explained to members of the Lossiemouth Community Council, who held a welcome reception for him this week, that the only thing that stopped him doing that was his wife Una’s determination that he had to keep going – what else, she said, would he do apart from mope around the house?

Then just days before the GB team were due to fly to Sochi came an early morning call to Jim – could he get himself south immediately, he was in the team. That call had arrived because Tom Killin had been forced to withdraw from the team through ill health.

Jim said: “When I first heard I was going I was elated – but then I asked who was ill because obviously I did not want any of them to be ill.

“My thoughts went out to Tom and I knew how he must have been feeling at losing the opportunity to play in what would have been his fifth Paralympic games.

“But then I realised I had a job to do. It was what I had been preparing for these last three and a half years, so I had to get my head into what I had to do.”

Jim’s wife Una admires the Paralympic medal.

For a week everyone in Moray – and in particular Lossiemouth – slowly became experts in the sport of wheelchair curling. People were entranced that two of their own – Jim and his Elgin team-mate Gregor Ewan – were not only competing at the highest level, but were doing so with a style and determination that would prove inspirational to everyone they meet.

“It has been quite fantastic since we got home,” Jim said, adding: “Last week we visited several Moray schools and the kids were amazing. If we could just inspire one or two to take part in not just curling, any sport, then it will all have been more than worthwhile.”

Looking back on the Paralympics competition Jim confessed that the game plan was simply to get through the round-robin stage and then see what could be achieved.

However, he also admitted that he had a good feeling about their medal hopes when they staged an incredible comeback when 6-2 down to the United States.

Jim explained: “We were down and out going into the last two ends but won – and I knew then that we had it in us to at least get into the last four and win a medal. Thinking back now perhaps I was thinking too far ahead but there were quite a few games where we came back from a few shots down but we always had that fighting spirit.”

As the medal games approached so the intensity of messages from home increased: “Some nights when I saw the messages coming back from home I thought I was going to explode, it was just overwhelming and I could not read them all or answer them all because I had to sleep.”

Team GB had lost heavily to China in the round-robin stages and so knew they were up against it when they faced the same opponents in the Bronze Medal play-off.

Jim recalled: “In the medal game when we were three shots down we knew that we had to battle – but then we stole a few shots and gradually we took control.

“The Chinese team will be back though I’m sure, they are a very young team but have a lot of talent so we will certainly see them again.”

So from the verge of quitting the sport Jim now finds himself proud owner of a Paralympic Bronze medal – not to mention fantastic memories of the friends he made from all nations in Sochi.

“Everyone out there was fantastic, from the wonderful athletes in the Team GB squad to those of other nations and, of course, our wonderful Russian hosts. It is very humbling to think that I was a part of all that, very humbling.”

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