When David Melrose takes to the ice in Stirling tomorrow in the World Wheelchair Curling Championships he will be on the way to reaching his dream to take part in the Paralympics.

Representing his country has replaced his childhood dream of becoming a firefighter, which was dashed when his back was broken while attending a blaze.

The accident nine years ago left the father-of-two paralysed from the waist down, but wheelchair curling has since helped him reclaim his life.

“I’d always been sporty and loved being a firefighter, so when I came out of hospital and it finally sunk in that I would never walk again, I was in despair,” said Mr Melrose, 53, from Duns in the Scottish Borders.

A former gravedigger, Mr Melrose’s life was radically changed when, on probation as a member of a retained crew attending a fire in his hometown, he was struck by a falling steel beam.

“I was in excruciating pain, shouting and screaming at my legs, which weren’t moving. I couldn’t feel them or my feet. But it wasn’t until I was in hospital that I realised I was paralysed.

“I went to take a shower and fell out of my chair. My brain was shouting at my legs to move and they didn’t and I ended up in a crumpled heap on the floor. From that moment on it’s been trying to do what’s best to survive.”

Mr Melrose had to give up not only his longed-for career as a firefighter but also his other great love – football.

“Pre-accident I was quite a fit guy; family life and everything else was great. The accident took everything away and I had to rebuild everything.

“I played football semi-professionally in goals, but I thought my sporting life was over until I had the chance to try out curling five years ago and joined a club in nearby Kelso. It was brilliant, and I haven’t looked back.

“Curling was the first sport I tried where I got the feeling back of not wanting to lose and of wanting to win. It was something I didn’t really expect to get back after my accident. It was like being reborn.”

Curling is no longer just a hobby for Mr Melrose, who reached the final of the British Open in 2016 and last year got on to the British Curling Programme.

British Curling head wheelchair coach Sheila Swan said: “Wheelchair curling is a great team sport. It’s physically and mentally challenging due to the length of championships and the tactical requirements of the sport. The tactical element also makes it a great sport to watch.

“The athletes all comment on how curling gives them renewed focus, as well as drive and commitment. It can be life changing. The opportunity to travel and compete, sometimes on the other side of the world, makes them realise there are no barriers to what they can achieve, and opens up so many opportunities both on and off the ice.”

Mr Melrose now competes alongside the likes of Sochi bronze medallists Aileen Neilson and Robert McPherson, and Hugh Nibloe, who made his Paralympic debut in PyeongChang. Last year, he made his Scotland debut at the Stirling Wheelchair Curling International Invitation event and now has his eyes on the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing.

“I’ve had to get used to thinking of myself as an athlete again and it’s given me back my confidence. I’m supported by experts at the National Curling Academy at the sportscotland institute of sport, who help me with fitness, physiotherapy, nutrition and psychology.”

The training programme has also brought tangible benefits: Mr Melrose is fitter, stronger and has lost a stone and a half.

“I’m more independent and don’t have to rely on my wife, Clare, for everything from getting dressed to going to the toilet. She says she is now learning how to be herself again. Curling has helped our relationship,” added Mr Melrose, who spends four days a fortnight in Stirling training with the team.

“But one of the best aspects of curling is psychological. “It takes my mind off what I’m going through. Being in a wheelchair can be boring, but I don’t have time for bad days now.

“I’ve also made new friends and love being part of a team. I’m looking forward to the World Championships tomorrow, but the big ambition is to win a gold medal at the Paralympics and get a gold postbox. That’s something that everyone can look at and say: ‘That’s that guy who won it for curling.’”