Kiwi curlers miss out at Olympic qualifier

NZ v Finland at 2021 Olympic Qualification Event
Team NZ v Finland. Photo © WCF / Steve Seixeiro

10 Dec 2021 – New Zealand's Mixed Doubles team have been unsuccessful in their bid for the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, losing their six pool games at the last-chance qualifying tournament in the Netherlands this week.

Despite being unable to train together in the three months before they left for Europe, Mhairi-Bronté Duncan and Brett Sargon had high hopes of emulating the 2006 NZ Men's team who qualified for the Turin Games.

Ultimately though, they were undone by their lack of time on the ice together.

"We're really grateful for all of the support we received," said Sargon after their last game. "It's safe to say that we're very disappointed, but this has highlighted the learnings if we are to make that next step."

His sentiments were echoed by the team's coach Peter de Boer.

"In the most trying circumstances they have worked hard and supported each other," he said. "What will make the difference is the ability to practice religiously together, and to compete against the best regularly. Do that and you start to build instinct for each other's game, for tactics, for ice reading, and so on. That can be the 5% difference between a play-off record and six losses."

The two successful teams from the Netherlands event to complete the Beijing field were Australia and the USA. The Australian team of Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt have been frequent and popular visitors to New Zealand pre-Covid, and were runners-up at the 2019 Winter Games NZ.

The Winter Olympics are scheduled for 4-20 February.


Earlier Article

Mission: Olympic qualification

Mhairi-Bronté Duncan Brett Sargon
Mhairi-Bronté Duncan. Photo © WCF / Alina Pavlyuchik Brett Sargon. Photo © WCF / Tom Rowland

14 Nov 2021 – Dunedin's Mhairi-Bronté Duncan and Auckland's Brett Sargon head to Europe next week, intent on winning one of the two remaining places in the Mixed Doubles event at next year's Beijing Winter Olympics.

They are not daunted by the scale of the task, and are confident in their game despite some less than ideal preparation.

The pair have been unable to train together since Auckland went into Covid lockdown in mid-August, and the only tournament they were due to play in before their departure – the NZ Mixed Doubles Championship – has been postponed twice.

"It's fair to say that the script for our training would have included us throwing at least a few rocks together in the last three months,” joked Sargon.

Mhairi-Bronté Duncan
Mhairi-Bronte Duncan at the 2020 NZ Curling Championships. Photo © Janyne Fletcher

"So we've had to be inventive. Mhairi's been video calling when she's been at the rink, setting the camera up behind the broom so I can watch her from the skip position and give her some feedback.”

The pair leave the country on 23 November and first head to Sweden.

"We've got nine days training at Sundbyberg CurlingKlubb in Stockholm,” said Duncan. "That's where I was based for the six months of my Curling OE two years ago, and it will be really nice to see everyone there and get some games in.”

"Brett did his Curling OE [in Canada] at the same time; we both learned our own game there and feel solid in ourselves. Since then we've been learning each other's game to the point that it's second nature for us to know what we need to do to make the shot."

Brett Sargon
Brett Sargon at the 2018 World Mixed Championship. Photo © WCF / Tom Rowland

"And we know that we're both equally invested and on that same level, with trust between each other and knowing that you both want it, and you want it for the right reasons."

The side are likely to be the only team without a coach or support team alongside them at the Olympic Qualifying Event.

"It just wasn't feasible to take a Kiwi coach along, with travel restrictions and MIQ," they said. "We looked at getting a coach from another country but we didn't want to disrupt the team dynamic, we'd literally be meeting them just nine days out."

From Sweden, the team head to the Netherlands for the OQE that begins on December 5th. 14 teams start the event in two pools of seven, with the top three in each pool then contesting playoffs to find the final two places in the Beijing field.