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Ex-firefighter competes in Winter Paralympics

David Melrose curling
David Melrose curling Image credit: thesouthernreporter.co.uk

A former firefighter competing in next month’s Winter Paralympics has said wheelchair curling has made him feel “complete again”.

David Melrose suffered a life-changing injury after steel beams collapsed on him when he tried to put out a fire in his home town of Duns in the Scottish Borders.

The dad of two was left paralysed from the waist down almost forcing him to give up his love of sport, but since taking up curling he is now competing at a professional level.

Melrose, who turns 56 on 2 March – just a few days ahead of the games, will represent ParalympicsGB alongside Scots Gregor Ewan, Hugh Nibloe, Meggan Dawson-Farrell and Charlotte McKenna.

It’s a giant career change from his previous jobs, before becoming a firefighter Melrose worked on a farm and a three-year stint as a council gravedigger.

He told PA news agency: “After the accident, the first years was really just living with disability and trying to come to terms with it.

“But after three years I found something was just missing inside me – and my wife had mentioned the same thing. I wasn’t the old person that she knew; I was a newer person.

“As soon as I tried it (curling), the feeling of the winning and losing just rushed back. After I started to take it more seriously, my kids actually said to Sheila (Swan, British wheelchair curling head coach), ‘It’s good to have my dad back’.

After his accident Melrose became part of a retained crew, but he was suffering in silence. Spending seven months in hospital he kept his feelings to himself having to rely on mental health support to see him through a very dark time.

“You plan out your life and mine just went upside down at the age of 45,” he said. “It was like, ‘What now?’

“I was quite blasé and showed quite a lot of front that the accident wasn’t really impacting on me because I didn’t want the family to think I was feeling down.

“It was hard but inside it was really quite hard. But fortunately the fire brigade had set me up with some sessions with a cognitive behaviourist.

“I got myself sorted out. I’m not ashamed, I was lucky that I got mental health (support) to help me get through that.”

Melrose joined the British Curling programme in 2018, the following year his team brought home silver in Stirling.

Next month he hopes to be celebrating more victories competing in Beijing.

“We can compete with anybody,” he said. “But any medal for us would be tremendous. As long as we bring our A game we should be OK.

“I’m going definitely to try and enjoy myself, soak up the atmosphere, take everything that’s available that we can do, and then when we’re on ice switch back to competitive mode.”

Beijing Winter Paralympics takes place between March 5 and 12 in China.