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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 March 2006, 00:25 GMT
New beginnings
By Elizabeth Hudson

When you have competed at Paralympic level in the past, you might be content to relax and enjoy your free time after you've retired, but not Scottish duo Michael McCreadie and Tom Killin.

Both experienced Paralympians, they are now set for a new chapter in their sporting adventure with the Great Britain wheelchair curling team at the Winter Games, which begin on Friday.

GB wheelchair curler Tom Killen. Pic: Bob Cowan (Scottish Curler)
Paralympian Tom Killin sizes up a shot on the ice

McCreadie, who will celebrate his 60th birthday in Turin, is a former Paralympic competitor in swimming, bowls and basketball - winning two bronzes for bowls in 1976.

He then made the switch to coaching the GB men's wheelchair basketball team for 10 years until 1994.

Killin's roll of honour includes Paralympic silver medals in fencing in 1980 in Arnheim and 1984 at Stoke Mandeville, where he also won a silver in the table tennis.

But the pair are now set to play a key role for Great Britain as they chase gold in Turin.

"I never thought I would be competing at international level again," admitted Killen. "I thought I was past the age of competing but this has brought a new dimension to my life.

"I've been involved in a lot of team sports in the past and I am a good team player and that has helped me enormously with wheelchair curling."

Killin was introduced to the sport by McCreadie, who will be competing in his sixth Paralympics.

competiton levels are rising, as is the commitment needed to take part at that level
GB wheelchair curler Michael McCreadie

"I made my Paralympic debut in Germany in 1972 so this will be my fourth as a competitor and I never thought I would be competing in a Winter Paralympics," he said.

"When I finished coaching the GB men's basketball team I had more or less given up on sport. I wanted to relax more and develop in other areas of my life but you don't know what is around the corner."

The preparations undergone for a Paralympics now far exceeds anything either man had experienced before and they are hoping to reap the benefits.

"When I competed in the past, you enjoyed your sport and trained hard but now it is more of a profession and the increased funding means there are so many more full-time athletes. I'm now at the gym at least two or three times a week," said Killin.

"It means that the competiton levels are rising, as is the commitment needed to take part at that level.

"Every Paralympic athlete I speak to is committed for four years from one Games to another. There is just no comparison to when I competed."

McCreadie admits that it hasn't always been easy to go back to being the pupil again after being a coach himself for so long.

"I know that sometimes during a training session I think 'I would have done that a different way' but as a competitor you have to put that aside.

GB wheelchair curler Michael McCreadie. Pic: Bob Cowan (Scottish Curler)
Michael McCreadie sends a stone down the ice

"I use the experience I have as a coach with my players at my club and sometimes I will discuss things discretely with the coaches.

"But I have to remember that the coach and team manager are the ones in charge - not me."

Although they have enjoyed Paralympic success in the past, both men are still chasing the first gold medal of their long sporting careers.

"Becoming Paralympic champion as part of a team would be very special," said McCreadie. "I think it would be one of the greatest moments of my life and it would be a reward, not only for my teammates, but for everyone who has supported us over the past few years.

"I hope we can put in a medal-winning performance. Our first goal is to reach the semi-final.

"We respect every team but we have earned the right to be there and we are ready for any eventuality and if we do our best, that is the most important thing."


SEE ALSO
Curlers target final medal chance
09 Mar 06 |  Disability Sport
Team for Turin
02 Mar 06 |  Disability Sport
Curling champions get Turin vote
30 Oct 05 |  Disability Sport


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