Managers at the Moray Leisure Centre have this week been explaining their decision to ban a Paralympian bronze medal winner from their ice rink for six months.
Jim Gault was a member of the UK curling team at the Paralympic Games in Sochi last year, returning home to a heroic welcome as medal winners.
Mr Gault, from Lossiemouth, was called in as a last-ditch replacement for the Russian winter games and teamed up with his Elgin-based friend Gregor Ewan in the UK Paralympic team.
However, it was a disagreement between the pair that led to Mr Gault being banned from his home rink after an argument during the international bonspiel held at the rink last month. The brainchild of international curler Andy Cameron, the bonspiel is a friendly annual gathering aimed at fostering closer relations between curlers of all abilities from around the world.
During the event on April 11 and 12 Mr Gault, 61, had a brief argument with his 43-year-old friend and colleague. During an angry exchange between the pair Mr Gault fell from his wheelchair and as a result was treated by paramedics.
Mr Ewan played down the issue when he told the P&J they remained “firm friends”, adding: “We had an argument and when Jim turned away to leave he fell off his chair and struck his face off the wall at the corner of the rink.
“He’s on tablets that thin his blood, so he began to bleed and an ambulance was called. We still train and play together regularly, and use a rink in Stirling to practice. It was just an argument – but it’s a learning curve and Jim will move on from it.”
Steve Ash, who is General Manager of Moray Leisure, who earlier this week were granted over £250,000 funding by Moray Council to replace the ice plant at the rink, said that the pair had become involved in a “slightly severe discussion” that led to the ban being placed on Mr Gault.
He said; “Mr Ewan tried to calm Mr Gault down, but he did not respond well to it. We have taken the decision to ban him from the facility for six months.
“The nature of the violence involved, and the language used in front of the public and children, demanded that I take some action. I’m disappointed that curlers from all over the place saw that, and I believe a couple of players from down south left because of the incident.
“We would deal with any individual behaving like that in the same manner, and we will monitor alcohol intake at future events of this nature.”
Mr Gault was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Police were informed at the time of the incident with a spokeswoman saying: “Officers were called to a report of a disturbance between two men at Moray Leisure Centre.
“A 61-year-old male was treated at the scene by paramedics for a minor facial injury. Neither party wished to make a complaint.”