A North East law firm has proved a shot in the arm for a wheelchair curling team in a bid to help them compete internationally.
Clarke Mairs LLP, based in Newcastle, is now sponsoring the Northern Ice wheelchair curling team, who have set their sights on representing England at the sport.
The team is the only wheelchair curling team south of the border. They have had discussions with the English Curling Association as they would like to represent England in next year’s international curling competition in Norway.
Other companies to back the team include Whitley Bay-based Northridge Healthcare, Dunston-based Easibathe, Byker-based Apex Blinds and Berwick Mobility.
If team members are able to represent England, it will open the door for them to be eligible to play for Great Britain in the Paralympics.
The team has ten members who live in Newcastle, Northumberland and Cumbria. Members range from 18 to 51, and most have spinal injuries and are paralysed from the waist down.
Stewart Pimblett of Seghill formed the team in 2010 after watching coverage of the Winter Paralympics on TV.
Pimblett and his friends, who already compete in a wheelchair basketball team, decided to take up curling but realised there were no local opportunities, so they set up Northern Ice. They have been training at Borders Wheelchair Curling Club in Kelso ever since.
Team members make the three-hour journey to Kelso in the Scottish Borders to train for two hours a week, before returning in the evening.
Curling teams usually train up to 20 hours a week, so Northern Ice are looking for ways to be able to train closer to home, and to take on specialised coaching staff.
Pimblett said: “We’re very grateful to Clarke Mairs for becoming our newest sponsor. Their contribution will make a huge difference to us in terms of buying more clothing, equipment, covering training costs and funding entry into competitions.
“Wheelchair curling is both interesting to watch and exciting to play, and in creating Northern Ice we’ve introduced another Paralympic sport for disabled individuals in the area to try their hand at.
Tim Clarke, partner at Clarke Mairs, said: “We’re delighted to sponsor Northern Ice and we’ve been very impressed by their dedication and commitment to their sport. We’re looking forward to following their journey as they set their sights on becoming the official England wheelchair curling team.”