World-class Canadian and American Mixed Doubles curling teams will compete for the first time at Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2015, raising the elite competition at Naseby’s Maniototo Curling International rink to a new level and creating even more focus on the sport, following its inclusion in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea.
The recent decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to debut Curling Mixed Doubles at the PyeongChang Olympics is a game-changer for the sport and both the New Zealand Curling Association and Winter Games NZ are excited at the announcement which comes on the eve of the Games.
Audi quattro Winter Games NZ CEO Arthur Klap said potentially podium winners at the 2018 Winter Olympics will be on show at Naseby and the competition between the host nation Korea and New Zealand against international powerhouses such as Canada and the United States is a bonus for spectators.
Audi quattro Winter Games NZ Curling Manager Sam Inder is upbeat about the appearance of the high-calibre Canadian and American teams, ranked sixth and eighth in the world respectively.
“This is recognition of the solid background work put in by both New Zealand Curling and theÂ Games to attract teams of this standard,” he said.
Director of High Performance USA Curling, Derek Brown said the IOC’s decision will obviously have a huge impact on Mixed Doubles internationally.
“We are delighted to be sending our champions, who are two of our younger athletes, to represent USA at the Winter Games NZ event. The pair has been part of our High Performance Programme for a number of years, having competed at Youth Olympics, World Juniors and recently World Mixed Doubles.”
He said competing at an event like Winter Games NZ “provides experience which just can’t be replicated without getting out there and doing it. It will be a huge benefit to the athletes’ growing curling careers”.
Similarly the Canadian team is using the tournament to build experience for its players following the positive Olympic announcement.
“In preparation for a podium performance in 2018 we are sending our reigning Canadian champions to the prestigious New Zealand event for the experience and the competition,” said Curling Canada Director of High Performance, Gerry Peckham.
Among the other ten confirmed teams are Australia, Finland, Czech Republic, China, Japan and Korea as well as New Zealand A and New Zealand B sides.
“We are also talking to other key curling nations such as Sweden, Italy and Austria,” said Mr Inder. “New Zealand has traditionally been the poor relation of curling because of the distance, but attracting the North Americans and other European teams will certainly put the sport in this country firmly on the world map.”
In another plus for New Zealand curling Winter Games NZ has been selected to trial proposed Mixed Doubles rule changes in preparation for the 2018 Olympic competition.
Mr Inder said the Naseby tournament will provide teams with an excellent opportunity to experience the new rules at a prominent international event.
Naseby’s Maniototo Curling International rink will host the Mixed Doubles Curling tournament at the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ from 23 to 27 August.