Back-to-back Mixed Doubles titles for Jess and Ben Smith

2019 NZ Mixed Doubles finalists
L-R: Runners-up Holly Thompson and Anton Hood, champions Jess Smith and Ben Smith

17 Jun 2019 – Jess and Ben Smith backed up their 2018 success when they beat Holly Thompson and Anton Hood 6-3 in an entertaining and high quality final of the 2019 NZ Mixed Doubles Championship on Sunday afternoon.

The Smith siblings held a narrow 3-2 lead at the fourth end break, but successive steals immediately afterward set the path for their win, reversing the pool result between the teams and handing Thompson and Hood their only loss of the weekend.

Courtney Smith and Hamish Walker made perfect use of their powerplay in the last end of the bronze medal game, scoring three points to head off Bridget and Sean Becker 8-6.

The event started on Thursday evening with 14 teams entered. Eleven draws and 42 games later the pool rounds concluded – and the top four teams who qualified to contest the championship playoffs were exactly the same sides who reached last year's semifinals.

2018 bronze medallists Courtney Smith and Hamish Walker topped pool A, dropping just one game. Five-time champions Bridget Becker and brother Sean lost two of their first three games, but improved to finish with the same 4-2 win-loss record as Jen Stewart and Scott Becker. It was Bridget and Sean who qualified by virtue of their head-to-head win between the two teams.

Holly Thompson and Anton Hood had a perfect record in Pool B, while the Smith siblings had a loss and a draw to take the other playoff spot.

In the semifinal matches on Sunday morning, Thompson and Hood scored two in the final end to beat Team Becker 8-6, and Team Smith won the first five ends en route to an 11-4 win over Smith and Walker.

The Plate competition for the 5th to 8th qualifiers was won by Thivya Jeyaranjan and Nelson Ede in a close 7-6 tussle with Natalie Thurlow and Warren Dobson.

National coach Peter de Boer was delighted with the performances of the athletes.

"The standard of the tournament was high throughout," he said, "illustrated with the excellent final which wouldn't have been out of place at a top International event."

"We are now starting to build some depth of talent which should stand us in good stead for years to come."

"I'm looking forward to watching our teams continue to learn the Mixed Doubles discipline at Winter Games NZ and then, for Jess and Ben, onto the challenge of Canada and the World Championship in April 2020!"


Kiwi Curlers sliding towards Beijing 2022

2018 NZ Mixed Doubles final
Sean and Bridget Becker (in the house) played Ben and Jessica Smith (right) in the 2018 final

13 Jun 2019 – The New Zealand Doubles Curling Championship begins today in Naseby, Central Otago and will run through until the final on Sunday afternoon.

14 teams littered with national champions and international representatives will battle it out for the national title and the right to represent their country at the 2020 World Championship in Canada.

New Zealand's position at the next World Championship was secured with a creditable 9th equal finish at this year's event in Norway in April, with the result also putting NZ firmly in the hunt for one of nine places available at the Beijing Olympics in 2022.

Heading the field and looking to go back-to-back will be the 2018 champions Jessica and Ben Smith, with the runners-up from last year and our representatives from Norway, Bridget and Sean Becker, keen to turn the tables this time around.

The selectors will also be using the event to select the local sides for the international Mixed Doubles Curling event at August's Winter Games NZ, so it should make for an exciting few days of curling in the Maniototo!