Team named for Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games

Zoe Harman at the 2019 NZ Curling Championships
Lausanne team member Zoe Harman at the 2019 NZ Curling Championships. Photo © NZCA / Janyne Fletcher

22 Nov 2019 – Four curling athletes have been selected by the NZ Olympic Committee to the New Zealand Team for the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.

Hunter Walker, Will Becker, Lucy Neilson, and Zoe Harman will compete at the Games from January 9th to 22nd in the Palladium de Champéry, Switzerland.

Captain Hunter Walker says he's thrilled to be selected and loves the strategy involved in the sport.

"It's very physical so you've got to be really fit to play which is part of the fun. It's also great to compete internationally and make friendships all over the world."

"My family has a strong curling history. My great-grandfather and grandmother both played for New Zealand and my brother Hamish has played for the NZ Men's Junior team and the NZ Men. I started playing when I was about 7 years old at the Maniototo International curling rink in Naseby."

Teammate Will Becker (Ngai Tahu) is also from a strong curling pedigree. Will is the nephew of curler Sean Becker, who was the New Zealand Team Flagbearer at the Torino 2006 Winter Olympic Games.

"My family's been curling for three or four generations now so I was pushed into the sport by my family but I really enjoy it," said Will.

"It's pretty cool to be doing what my family's done and succeeded at. I saw my uncle the other day and he congratulated in person which was nice."

The athletes all hail from the Maniototo Area in Central Otago. Lucy, Zoe and Will attend Maniototo Area School, while Hunter recently graduated from Otago Boys.

Team coach Nelson Ede says a huge number of local youths are involved in curling thanks to the accessibility of the Naseby Indoor Curling Rink.

"Central Otago is very much the heart of curling in New Zealand and we have a strong curling history in Maniototo," said Ede.

"The kids get right in behind it. They see their peers doing well and see the opportunities the sport has to offer and think I'd like to have a go at that.

"We're really pleased with these selections, it's a real opportunity for the athletes to compete on the world stage and learn lots. It should set them up for further success."

During the first week of the Games the four athletes will compete as the New Zealand Team. Following that competition, each individual athlete will be paired with an athlete of the opposite sex from another nation as part of the Mixed Doubles Event which will be contested during the second week of the Games.

"I'm quite excited about the mixed (doubles) competition, I just hope we can understand each other," said Will.

NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith extended her congratulations to the curlers.

"Well done to these athletes for all the work you've put in to make it to this point. We look forward to watching you compete in Europe in January."

Rebecca Pitts and Jayden Bishop have been selected as non-travelling reserves.

Around 20 New Zealand athletes are expected to compete at Lausanne 2020. 11 New Zealand athletes competed at the previous edition of the Winter Youth Olympic Games, with four of those athletes going on to compete at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The Curling tournament is in Champéry, just over 30km south of the host city.


Athlete Bios

Hunter Walker

Hunter Walker at 2019 NZ Junior Curling Championships
Hunter Walker. Photo © NZCA / Janyne Fletcher

Age at Games
17 Years

High School
Otago Boys High School - Dunedin

Ethnicity
NZ European

Career highlight
Winning the World Junior B's Championship in Loja Finland in January 2019. The win qualified New Zealand to compete at the World Junior Championship in Liverpool, Canada in February 2019, where we finished 6th in the world.

How did you get into your sport?
My family has a strong curling history. My great-grandfather and grandmother both played for New Zealand. My brother Hamish has played for the NZ Men's Junior team and the NZ Men. I started playing when I was about 7 years old at the Maniototo International curling rink in Naseby.

What do you love about the sport?
The strategy of the game and the friendships you make all over the world.
 

Lucy Neilson

Lucy Neilson at 2019 NZ Junior Curling Championships
Lucy Neilson. Photo © NZCA / Janyne Fletcher

Age at Games
17 years

High School
Maniototo Area School

Ethnicity
NZ European

How did you get into your sport?
I was first introduced to curling as my brothers went along to the local Friday night curling and I would have to go and watch. One of my friends eventually dragged me downstairs to join in one night and I guess I got hooked.

What do you love about the sport?
I love how curling is a very tactical sport and the teamwork involved to win a game.
 

Will Becker

Will Becker at the 2019 NZ Junior Curling Championships
Will Becker. Photo © NZCA / Janyne Fletcher

Age at Games
16 years

High School
Maniototo Area School

Ethnicity
New Zealand European and Ngai Tahu

Career highlight
Being selected for the Youth Olympics Team, representing NZ in curling is a dream of mine.

How did you get into your sport?
I come from a family of curlers so I was introduced to the sport from a really young age. My Dad curls outdoors and my extended family are indoor curlers. I threw my first stone as a toddler and I have been playing in local competitions since I was about 12.

What do you love about the sport?
Curling is such a fun sport, it's a great way to spend time with your friends/family and it's a great sport to meet new people through. I also love the competitive side of curling.
 

Zoe Harman

Age at Games
15 years

High school
Maniototo Area School

Ethnicity
NZ European

Career highlight
Getting selected for the Youth Olympics and getting selected for the NZ under 21 women's curling team in 2019.

How did you get into your sport?
My parents would take me and my siblings to the free curling lessons they had on Friday nights at the Naseby Curling Rink. I really liked it so I changed schools and Mum and I moved to Ranfurly so I could be more involved with curling and be in competitions.

What do you love about your sport?
I love the team spirit and how friendly and inclusive everyone is. Curling has loads of different age groups for everyone and I like that anyone can join and have fun.
 

About the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games

  • Around 20 athletes are expected to make up the New Zealand Team for the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
  • 1800 athletes aged 15 to 18 will compete in eight sports from the 9th until the 22nd of January 2020 as part of the Games.
  • The athletes will compete across Switzerland, and neighbouring France, enabling many regions to be a part of the Olympic spirit.
  • 11 New Zealand athletes competed at the previous edition of the Winter Youth Olympic Games, winning two medals. Four of the athletes went on to be selected for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.