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- British wheelchair curler
UNFINISHED business is all wheelchair curling legend Gregor Ewan has to say about the upcoming Winter Paralympic Games – four years after returning home empty-handed from PyeongChang.
But the Scottish star is prepared to 'float like a butterfly, sting like a bee' at Beijing 2022 as his life-long hero Muhammad Ali's words ring true in his ears.
Elgin curler Ewan, 50, was officially selected in ParalympicsGB’s five-strong wheelchair curling team alongside Hugh Nibloe and debutants Meggan Dawson-Farrell, David Melrose and alternate Charlotte McKenna.
Ewan was unable to match his 2014 bronze medal success in Sochi at the 2018 Winter Paralympics, with the team finishing seventh in the round-robin stage and failing to qualify for the knockout phase.
It was a heartbreaking blow for Ewan that rocked him to his core, and saw him out of the game for a while after.
But Ali's inspiration always found its way into his career, with Ewan turning his life around in a bid to become the greatest in Beijing.
Ewan, one of the first five athletes selected for Beijing 2022, is one of over 1,000 who are able to train full-time, access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to vital National Lottery funding. He said: "It's unfinished business. I want to get a gold Paralympic medal.
"After Korea, I went home and asked myself 'could I have done more?'. The answer was yes. It was too late but I'm not doing that again.
"It's definitely made me more determined. I had to give myself a good hard shake and look at myself in all aspects.
"I changed a lot of things to make myself a better curler. I don't want to come back from China this time around and wonder what more I could have done.
"The last few years leading up to Beijing, I've done everything I could do to prepare for this.
"Muhammad Ali is just a class act. When I was four years old, my cousin was in the merchant navy, and he took us boxing. I loved boxing and I always wanted to go professional.
"Muhammad Ali was one of the best boxers you could ever watch, and I still think he's incredible. He was a very charismatic man and I think he's a brilliant role model. He's my idol - my hero."
The devastation following 2018 was heightened as Ewan found himself dropped from the Scottish team, but he did not lose heart, and found ways to improve his game, including losing eight stone and putting a big focus on reducing his use of pain medication.
Having become a wheelchair user due to a spinal collapse from decades of heaving lifting on building sites, Ewan first got into the sport at Moray Wheelchair Curling Club as a way to ‘get off my backside and do something.’
He added: "I'd go down, play a couple games, have a cup of coffee, and there was a bar upstairs so you could even have a pint if you'd played well!
"I fell in love with the sport. Once I started learning the rules and learning the strategy, the targets, and have the cold trying to zap you at the same time - those are the three aspects of the game - I was hooked. I still love it and enjoy it every time I play.
"Turning my life around was more psychological, for my own sanity more than anything else.
"When you're on heavy painkillers, you're there but you're not there. The amount of tablets I've been able to cut out, and visiting the pain clinic in Glasgow gave me so much help as well and coping mechanisms to deal with it. I stay in the room a lot longer and concentrate a lot more, which is vital for curling."
Returning to the Scotland squad in 2020, Ewan was able to play at the World Championships in October 2021 at the same venue he will be going to for the Paralympics in March.
And the Scottish star, who will aim to add to the 1,000-plus medals achieved by British athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding to elite sport in 1997, said: "It's a great venue they've set up, with the bubble they've made and how clean it all is.
“The Paralympics is the pinnacle of where we can play so to get any medal is a great achievement. I was over the moon with a bronze in Sochi but I still think there's more to come in Beijing.
"I would like to be able to come off the ice at the end of the competition and say: 'I gave it my all.'"
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