MATTY SUTTON and HANNAH RODGER spoke to two members of the British paralympic squad ahead of today's opening ceremony
SPORTS fans from across the world are focussing on Russia once more as the Winter Paralympics kick off in style.
Among those warming up for the competition are local wheelchair curlers Bob McPherson and Aileen Neilson, who will compete as part of the all-Scottish GB squad in Sochi.
Following the success of the Olympic men's and women's teams, curling mania is sweeping Scotland, and Bob admits he is regularly recognised in his hometown of Bellshill.
The 45-year-old, who has spina bifida, took up the sport in 2007 and has rocketed through the ranks to secure a spot on the Paralympic squad.
He will join skip Aileen, Jim Gault, Gregor Ewan and Girvan-based Angie Malone on their quest for medal glory.
So far this year, the team has done well, gathering a clutch of medals in the Wheelchair World Tour, and they are currently ranked within the top six in the world.
Bob jumped up to major competition level last year when the team took sixth place in the World Championships.
Now he says he feels like a "superstar" when people spot him in the street to congratulate him.
And getting his place on the GB squad for the Winter Paralympics has been the icing on the cake.
Describing the day he received his GB kit, he said: "The way I see it, it is like a football player going to the World Cup, to see my name on the back of my top and that feeling when I tried it on. I was absolutely over the moon.
"I said to myself 'I have made it'."
The Paralympics will be screened on Channel 4, kicking off with today's Opening Ceremony.
Britain's wheelchair curling squad will make its first appearance at the Ice Cube Curling Centre tomorrow, when they will take on the world's number one team, Canada.
And, while Bob battles it out on the world stage, his wife Linda, 41, is under strict instructions to make sure each match is recorded, ready to watch when he gets home.
Meanwhile, 42-year-old Aileen, from Strathaven, will step up for her second Paralympic Games and her first as skip.
The primary school teacher, who works at Bent Primary School in South Lanarkshire, has been given a three-year career break to pursue Paralympic glory full-time.
She made history at the last Games in Vancouver when she became the first female to skip a match in a Winter Paralympics.
Aileen said: "I am very proud to be the skip.
"Wheelchair curling is mixed gender, so for me it is all about the four players on the ice, and every stone that every player plays is crucial. It just so happens that the female is throwing the last two stones on our team, but the first two stones are just as important.
"Being my second Paralympics, it is just about going out there and proving to ourselves that we can continue to build on the performance and the results that we have had this season, and show that we are one of the best countries out there.
"Our preparation has really put us in a place where we are excited and really keen to get out there and perform to our best."
As a toddler Aileen underwent an operation to remove a tumour from her spinal cord, which had resulted in some nerve damage.
While she enjoyed an active childhood, the damage began to show in later life and, in 2005, she began using a wheelchair permanently, after years of relying on crutches.
Aileen grabbed the opportunity to try new things. She said: "For me it opened up so many doors and gave me a new lease of life.
"It got me involved in sport and I am now travelling all over the world meeting new people and representing my country at the Paralympic Games, what could be better than that?"