NZ's best showing at Youth Olympics

NZ's 2020 YOG team in their quarter-final vs Germany
NZ's 2020 YOG team in their quarter-final vs Germany. Photo © WCF / Alina Pavlyuchik

27 Jan 2020 – Hunter Walker, Zoe Harman, Will Becker and Lucy Neilson took 4th place at the 2020 Youth Winter Olympic Games Mixed Curling competition, by far the best result by a New Zealand side at the event.

The opening week of competition was a Mixed (Fours) event. They opened their pool games with an 8-4 win against Slovenia before recording a last-stone victory against France 6-4.

With scores tied at four-all going into the last end the New Zealand Team of Zoe Harman, Lucy Neilson, Hunter Walker and Will Becker held their cool.

"It was a bit stressful, if we didn't win that end there would've been another end in a tiebreaker situation," said Harman.

The Kiwis had another last stone win over Turkey 7-6, before yet another nailbiter where they headed Norway 6-5 in an extra end to qualify for the playoff rounds with a game to spare.

Hunter Walker had an open draw for the win in the extra end, but still admitted to a few nerves when playing his last stone. "I was shaking a little," he said. "I took a deep breath and kept doing what I’ve been doing. We’re excited [for the play-offs]. It’s amazing to be here."

Despite dropping their last pool match 9-7 to Great Britain, they still topped Group C with a 4W-1L record.

The Kiwis' strong form continued into their quarter-final against Germany, scoring 3 with hammer in the first end and stealing the last two ends to record a 7-4 victory and head to the medal games.

Two hours after their quarter-final the side lined up against Japan in the semi-final. A 4-point scored by Japan just after the break proved to be the difference between the teams, with Japan's 8-4 win earning them entry to the gold medal match.

New Zealand lined up against Russia for the bronze, but it was the Russian team who stormed out to a six-point lead after just two ends. They went on to run NZ out of stones in the final end, securing the bronze medal 9-5.

"We're a bit disappointed to not get a medal but the whole experience has been amazing. It's been so cool to play against such good curlers from all over the world," said third Zoe Harman.

"It was definitely a good game, we could've been stronger early on but as the game went on we got better and better and won a few points back," added skip Hunter Walker. "The fourth placing means a lot to us. This is the best New Zealand has ever done in curling at the Winter Youth Olympic Games so that's pretty amazing."


Mixed Doubles

The Mixed Doubles event was a single knockout event. The 48 teams comprised one male and one female from different nations, with teams determined by their final standings after the Mixed Fours tournament.

Three of the four Kiwis were knocked out in the first round.

Lucy Neilson and Estonia's Henry Gruenberg lost to a Turkey / Sweden pair 7-3, Zoe Harman and France's Merlin Gros-Soubzmaigne were eliminated 8-2 by a Poland / China combination, While Hunter Walker and Brazil's Leticia Cid were squeezed out 10-9 by a Canada / Spain side.

NZ's Will Becker and Latvia's Anna Lasmane had a better run. They first headed a Switzerland / USA pair 10-4, and in the second round they scored 3 in the last end to edge out an Italy / Spain side 8-7.

Becker and Lasmane faced France's Chana Beitone and Russia's Nikolai Lysakov in the third round (Round of 12) match. The scores were level at the fourth-end break, but the NZ / Latvia pair were kept scoreless in the second half of the game and were knocked out 5-10.

Their opponents went on to win the silver medal, beaten for gold by Laura Nagy (Hungary) and Nathan Young (Canada).