Youth Olympics an "out of this world" experience

Courtney Smith
Courtney Smith in NZ's match vs China. Photo © WCF / Richard Gray

28 Feb 2016 – Although New Zealand’s Youth Olympic curlers may not have brought any medals home from Lillehammer with them, they still performed with distinction against teams of a very high standard said coach Peter Becker.

Their 1 win - 6 loss record saw them finish in 13th place overall in the Mixed Fours event. "It was a satisfactory result,” he said. “But with more strategic experience they could have won other games too."

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In the Mixed Doubles knockout event that followed all players were paired with a curler from another nation, with the pairings dependent on each individual’s position in the team and their team’s overall ranking.

Matthew Neilson, Courtney Smith and Ben Smith and their Doubles teammates from Russia, Switzerland and USA respectively were all eliminated after the first round of matches.

Holly Thompson and Canada’s Sterling Middleton had good wins in their first two games, and looked poised to go further. However they came up against the very good Yako Matsuzawa and Philipp Hoesli pair in their quarter-final, and were well beaten by the Japan-Switzerland combination who went on to win the gold medal.

After the Games, Holly said she "loved every aspect, learnt so much, curled hard, achieved goals and met some amazing and extremely talented people! It was an out of the world experience I will never forget."

The New Zealand squad did not return empty-handed tough. Wanaka’s Finn Bilous won NZ’s first Youth Winter Olympic medal with silver in the Men’s Freeski Halfpipe, and followed that up later in the week with a bronze in Freeski Slopestyle.


NZ curlers primed for Youth Olympic Games

Icemaker Mark Callum
Icemaker Mark Callum preparing the rink in Lillehammer.
Photo: Jon Buckle for YIS/IOC

12 Feb 2016 – New Zealand's curlers are among the first athletes in action at the second Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Lillehammer, Norway. Their first round match against Russia is in the opening draw of the Mixed Fours competition, with the game due to start at 9:00pm Friday NZT (9:00 am local time).

The official Opening Ceremony will be screened live tomorrow morning (Saturday 13th) from 7:00am on Sky Sport 3.

Curlers Matthew Neilson, Ben Smith, Courtney Smith and Holly Thomson make up four of the 11-strong New Zealand side at the Games, with the other Kiwi athletes involved in skiing, snowboarding and ice hockey.

The 64 curlers from 16 countries will play in two events. The national teams will first play a Mixed Fours tournaments, starting in two pools. New Zealand will play China, Italy, Japan, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey and USA in their pool, with the toip four sides progressing to playoffs.

After the Mixed event, a Mixed Doubles competition will take place from Friday 19 February. This will see one male and one female athlete, from different countries, playing together. The teams will be determined by the athletes’ position within their team and their nation's overall position following the Mixed competition.

The finals of the Mixed Doubles will be on Sunday 21 February.

YOG and Junior teams confirmed

NZ 2016 YOG Curling team
L-R: Matthew Neilson, Holly Thompson, Ben Smith, Courtney Smith. Photo: Dianna Whyte / NZCA

7 Sep 2015 – New Zealand Curling has nominated four athletes and two non-travelling reserves for February's Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

The selected curlers are Matthew Neilson, Holly Thompson, Ben Smith and Courtney Smith, all from Maniototo Area School in Central Otago. The two reserves are Eloise Pointon (Auckland) and Hamish Walker (Central Otago). These nominations are still to be ratified by the NZOC.

The four will first play together as a national team in the Mixed Fours curling competition at the start of the Games. A Mixed Doubles event will follow.

"The Youth Olympic Games are a wonderful opportunity for young athletes so early in their international careers," said Darren Carson, NZ Curling's Selection Panel Convenor. "Our team that went to Innsbruck four years ago now have friends across the globe who represent the future of curling. We saw some of them here at last month's Audi quattro Winter Games NZ Mixed Doubles Tournament in Naseby, with the young USA team now ranked in the world's top ten – and taken to last stone by our own young team."

Mr Carson also confirmed the national Under-21 sides to compete in January's World Junior "B" Curling Championship in Lohja, Finland:

Junior Men:  Simon Neilson, Matthew Neilson, Ben Smith, Hamish Walker, Josh Whyte
Junior Women:  Eleanor Adviento, Waverley Taylor, Jessica Smith, Holly Thompson, Emma Sutherland

Nominations Open for Youth Olympic Games

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1 Jan 2015 – The 2nd Winter Youth Olympic Games will be held in Lillehammer, Norway, from 12 to 21 February 2016.

New Zealand Curling Association (NZCA) wishes to have a curling team participate in the Games and in order to meet the nomination and selection timelines set by the New Zealand Olympic Committee Inc (NZOC) the process must begin in the next few weeks.

Athlete applications and support staff applications must be received by 27 March 2015 immediately.

The team selection process involves athletes who wish to be considered for selection to submit an application to NZCA. Following an appropriate trial process, which is likely to involve compulsory participation in events such as the 2015 NZ U21 championships and the following training camp, NZCA will ‘select’ the proposed team and nominate that team to NZOC for formal selection and ratification. The New Zealand ‘Games Team’ will be limited to 70 athletes and there is no guarantee that a curling team will be included, especially if there are any doubts that the proposed curling team may not be able to perform to an appropriately high standard.

 Key Points

  • Athlete's date of birth MUST fall between 1 Jan 1998 and 31 Dec 2001 inclusive
  • Nominations must be returned to NZCA by 12 February 2015
  • NZCA will propose a mixed team (2 male, 2 female) to NZ Olympic Committee who will make the final decision
  • Nomination by NZCA does not guarantee selection by NZOC
  • Selected athletes must meet their own costs

The NZOC timeline requires athletes to make application for selection to NZCA by 12th February 2015, and subsequently NZCA will be required to nominate the proposed team to NZOC in August 2015.

Application for selection to a New Zealand team will be available to athletes whose date of birth falls between 1st January 1998 and 31st December 2001.

The main curling competition for the Winter Youth Olympic Games curling is based on mixed teams of two boys and two girls (one team from each participating country). Following the completion of the main competition (and awarding of medals) the athletes are split into teams to play a mixed doubles competition, for which all curlers are teamed with a player from a different country. If time allows between curling games the athletes will have the opportunity to participate in other activities that will be offered by the organisers.

Athletes will be required to meet their own costs which, for this event, are likely to be in the order of NZ$5000 per athlete. This will cover travel, accommodation, food, some NZOC team uniform items, and insurance. If an NZCA team is successful in being selected by NZOC it will be accompanied at the Games by one or two coach/managers.