|Photo © WCF / Richard Gray|
16 Dec 2013 – Olympic dreams for New Zealand Curling teams will have to go on hold for another four years.
The national Men's side have come up short in their attempt at the last qualifying tournament in Fussen, Germany, to secure a place at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
Needing to win their last two round robin matches overnight and hope for a favourable result elsewhere, they obtained their first objective with a strong 8-4 win over France.
The Kiwis scored 3 in the fifth end to take a 5-3 lead at the break, and another score of 3 in the ninth end sealed the result.
New Zealand then came up against joint leaders the Czech Republic in their last round robin game.
The scores were level four times in the match, and late in the final end the Kiwis twice had a guarded scoring stone poised to steal for the win. But both times an in-form Czech side made a double takeout to remove both the guard and the shot stone, and the Czechs scored the one point they needed for a 7-6 victory.
As it turned out a win would have not been enough for New Zealand, as none of the other leading sides tripped up in the final round.
It was a case of so near yet so far for Team New Zealand, with two of their losses, to USA and Germany, coming on the last stone of the game.
"We're naturally bitterly disappointed that we didn't quite make it," said skip Peter de Boer.
"However some perspective will come pretty quickly and I think we can be proud of our efforts, and we're tremendously grateful for all the support we received. We curled hard, fought well and came up just short."
"I think everyone is looking forward to getting back to NZ to spend some time with their families."
Germany, USA, Korea and the Czechs all finished with a 5-2 win-loss record went to the playoff for the two places remaining in the Men's Winter Olympic field. New Zealand finished 5th at 3-4, Finland and France at 2-5, and Japan 1-6.
Germany and the USA were the two sides to qualify for Sochi.
In the Women's competition Japan, China, Norway and Germany played off for the final two places at the Winter Olympics. In the best possible result for Pacific-Asia curling, it was China and Japan who qualified.
NZ hangs on in Olympic qualifier
|Sean Becker (NZL) urges on his sweepers Scott Becker and Kenny Thomson vs Korea - Photo © WCF / Richard Gray|
13 Dec 2013 – The New Zealand Men's Curling team suffered two losses overnight at the final Winter Olympic Qualifying tournament in Fussen, Germany.
But despite the disappointment of these results, the Kiwis are buoyed by the knowledge that every team is still in the hunt to at least force a tiebreaker to make the playoffs.
For New Zealand this means that they must win their remaining two pool matches and then hope for one or two favourable results elsewhere. Given the evenness of the competition in Fussen, this is not a far-fetched scenario.
The Kiwis started their early game against Korea poorly, allowing their opponents to steal 3 points in the first two ends, and from there were always in catch-up mode.
The Koreans eventually ran New Zealand out of stones in the final end to win 10-6.
Their late game against Germany was a much tighter affair. The scores were locked at 3-3 after four ends, 4-4 after six and 5-5 after eight.
Germany then blanked the ninth to take last-stone advantage into the tenth and final end. The key moment came when German fourth Felix Schulze made a double takeout to remove both the New Zealand shot stone and a guard, allowing him a straight-forward hit with the last shot of the match to take a 6-5 victory for Germany.
New Zealand skip Peter de Boer said after the match, "A tough day at the office with the early loss to a Korean team on top form and then a narrow defeat to Germany has meant that we are hanging in there by the skin of our teeth."
"[But with] two wins tomorrow, there could be a log jam on 4 wins and 3 losses," he added. "We'll be going hard at it!"
Eight men's and seven women's teams are competing for the last two places in the fields at February's Sochi Winter Olympics. After the round robin, the top three sides will play off for those two Olympic berths. If teams are tied for third then tiebreaker games will be used to find the last qualifier.
Men's win-loss record after five rounds: Korea 4-1, Czech Republic 3-2, Germany 3-2, USA 3-2, Finland 2-3, France 2-3, New Zealand 2-3, Japan 1-4.
USA steal win from Kiwis
|Kenny Thomson (NZL) v USA - Photo © WCF / Richard Gray|
12 Dec 2013 – The second day of the final Winter Olympic qualifying tournament for the New Zealand Men's Curling team was an up and down one.
After a win over Finland in their opening game yesterday, they let slip a golden opportunity to make it two from two when their first match overnight against the USA slipped from their grasp.
USA stole the ninth end to level the scores, but New Zealand still had a chance to draw for the win with the last stone of the game in the tenth and final end. However the shot travelled too far and USA stole another point to take the victory 7-6.
Peter de Boer's NZ side redeemed themselves against Pacific-Asia rivals Japan in their next match. NZ stole 2 points in the second end and then scored a big 3 in the fourth to take a healthy lead that they maintained throughout. After de Boer raised his own stone to count one point in the eighth end, Japan conceded the match for the Black Rocks to record an 8-3 win.
|Peter de Boer and Sean Becker (NZL) look on as Japanese third Tetsuro Shimizu urges his sweepers - Photo © WCF / Richard Gray|
Following the game, de Boer said, "After the fourth end of that game we started to play better. We made some nice draws when we had to. We're playing well enough, our brush-play is really good, we just need to tighten up a few sweeping calls and weight judgements. If we keep throwing it the way we're throwing it, we'll win more than we lose."
Looking forward he added, "It's going to be a bit of a dust-up at the end of it, there's going to be a bit of a pile-up, so it'll be down to whoever keeps their nerve."
Men's win-loss record after three rounds: Korea 3-0, Czech Republic 2-1, New Zealand 2-1, USA 2-1, France 1-2, Germany 1-2, Japan 1-2, Finland 0-3.
Good start in Olympic qualifier
|Peter de Boer (NZL) keeps a close eye on the line called by Finland's Abu Kauste - Photo © WCF / Richard Gray|
11 Dec 2013 – The New Zealand Men's Curling team have made the best possible start to their Olympic Qualifying tournament in Fussen, Germany overnight.
They beat Finland 6-4 in a tight opening match that was decided on the last shot of the game.
With the scores locked at 3-3 after seven ends, skip Peter de Boer made a double-takeout with his first stone of the eighth end to set up a further 2 points and break the deadlock.
A delicate tapback by de Boer with the last stone in the tenth and final end secured the win for his side.
de Boer was pleased with his opening win, saying, "We played a good game there, certainly for the first six or seven ends," but he also conceded, "We got ourselves into a bit of a mess in the last end but fortunately he left me a road to the button."
Speaking about the importance of the competition he added, "It's seven or eight finals, every single game. You've just got to stay calm... seven more finals to go."
Winter Olympic showdown beckons
3 Dec 2013 – The New Zealand Men's Curling team will be primed and keen to bolster the ranks of the country's 2014 Winter Olympic team at next week's final Olympic Qualifying Event in Germany to determine the remaining two places at February's Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
|Team New Zealand, L-R: Peter de Boer, Sean Becker, Scott Becker, Kenny Thomson, Phil Dowling - Photo © Anil Mungal|
Direct qualification for Sochi went to the host nation and the seven sides accumulating the most qualification points at the 2012 and 2013 World Championships. New Zealand's fifth place at the 2012 World Championship earned the team 8 points, but they did not qualify for this year's event so were unable to add to their tally.
The eight nations already confirmed for the ten team Men's Curling event are Canada (26 points), Sweden (24), Great Britain (22), Norway (17), Denmark (15) China (14), Switzerland (10) and the Russian hosts.
The Kiwi side of Peter de Boer, Sean Becker, Scott Becker, Kenny Thomson and Phil Dowling, coached by Peter Becker, will go into the OQE ranked just behind the USA, but ahead of the other teams from Czech Republic, France, Japan, Germany, Finland and Korea.
Maniototo's Sean Becker, who throws third stones, is looking to become a repeat Olympian. He carried the flag for NZ at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, and skipped the team in Turin.
Skip Peter de Boer and the rest of his teammates are striving for their first Olympic experience.
"We've been working all year towards this event," de Boer said, just before his team headed to Europe last weekend. "It's great that it's finally here and we can get on the ice and do the business!"
"Recent tournaments in Vancouver and Shanghai have given us plenty of competitive practice, and a week of training in Scotland before heading to Germany should be the ideal way to ensure we are both physically and mentally ready. It's going to be a tough competition but we know we can do it and are looking forward to giving it our all."
Next week's qualifying tournament in Füssen, Germany runs from 10 to 15 December. The eight sides will will compete in a single round robin with the top three teams moving on to the playoffs. The top two teams will meet in the first playoff game with the winner qualifying for the Winter Olympics. The losing side will play the third seeded playoff team for the remaining place in the field at Sochi.