|Canada's Charley Thomas. Photo © WGNZ / Peter Meecham|
26 Aug 2017 – Defending champions Canada and 2011 winners Hungary both made successful returns to Naseby when they won their games in the opening round of the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ Mixed Doubles curling tournament today.
“We’re pretty happy with that,” said Charley Thomas after Canada’s first-up win over China. “It’s about figuring out the ice for the first couple of games, so we’re pleased with where we ended up. I think the ice is even better than for [yesterday’s] practice, so it should be a good competition.”
Hungary’s György Nagy was equally pleased. “We play Finland quite often back home,” he said. “They have qualified for the Olympics which we haven’t, so this was a good start for us.”
| • Audi quattro Winter Games NZ website
• 2017 Mixed Doubles curling tournament
Go Aoki from Japan played an early candidate for shot of the tournament with the last stone of their game against Estonia. Three down on the scoreboard and facing a house full of granite, Aoki’s runback of an Estonian stone removed three opposing stones and left four of his own scoring to record an unlikely one point win.
"I practice the runback every day," said Aoki after his spectacular shot. "But I was still very pleased – and a bit surprised – that it worked."
Australia 1 completed the opening session with a win against New Zealand 2.
The other pool of eight teams had their first games in the early afternoon. In the headline game, World champions Switzerland were beaten on the last stone by the Norwegian side who ranked 5th at the World Championship.
“That was our first game for the new season, so we are very happy with that,” said Norway’s Magnus Nedregrotten. “Before it we talked about getting our communication going well, and that worked for us. We made a good number of shots too – the ice was excellent, a little less swingy on the side but that’s not unusual.”
There were also wins for Korea over Scotland, for New Zealand 1 in an extra end against Spain, and for international debutants New Zealand 3 over Australia 2.
The young Kiwis admitted to being nervous throughout the game but both relished the experience. “We didn’t make all of our shots,” said Ben Smith, “but we must have made enough of them.”
“We got our draw weight fairly early,” added his sister and playing partner Jess, “and that definitely helped with the nerves.”
Round robin play continues though until Tuesday at Naseby’s Maniototo Curling International rink. The gold medal match on Wednesday afternoon will be televised live on TVNZ Duke.