|Maniototo Curling International, Naseby||25 - 30 August 2017|
|Pool A||P||W||L||Pool B||P||W||L|
|4||Finland||TB||7||4||3||4||New Zealand 1||7||3||4|
|7||China||7||2||5||7||New Zealand 3||7||2||5|
|8||New Zealand 2||7||0||7||8||Australia 2||7||0||7|
|Q: Qualified for Semi / Quarterfinal – TB: Tiebreaker|
30 Aug 2017 – Estonia are the 2017 Audi quattro Winter Games NZ Mixed Doubles curling champions after a 7-6 win in this afternoon’s final against defending champions Canada.
The Estonians started strongly to hold a 5-1 lead at the halfway point, only to see their advantage evaporate after the seventh end.
Mixed Doubles has a mantra that ‘no lead is safe’, and Canada made a valiant attempt to defend their 2015 title. They scored in the next three ends go ahead 6-5 as the final end started.
The Canadian pair attempted to take out all of the Estonian stones with their final shots to prevent them scoring two, but there was still a single rock remaining as Marie Turmann lined up the last stone for Estonia.
She held her nerve to score the crucial second point they needed to secure the gold, Estonia's first at an international curling event.
Her playing partner Harri Lill was relieved after the game. “We started well,” he said. “We had a really good first half, not so good second half. When we dropped behind we just had to reset and forget the previous end. It’s tough to beat Team Canada, but it was a really exciting game.”
The Canadians were gracious in defeat. “They outplayed us,” said Charley Thomas. “We didn’t play to our potential, they played well and they deserved their win. Full credit to them.”
There is no rest for Team Canada. “The next tournament back home is a big one,” said Kalynn Park. “So we’re straight back on the plane, and we’re on the ice in Winnipeg in two days time.”
In the bronze medal match, Norway started strongly against Korea and didn’t let up. The teams shook hands after six ends with the Norwegians winning 10-2.
Although pleased with their bronze medal, Magnus Nedregotten said that Norway’s morning semi-final was a letdown for them.
“We didn't do the things we had said we were going to do this morning,” he said. “We made some easy mistakes where we had it in our pocket but let [Canada] in. To turn everything round we had a good chat, managed to reset things back to zero and go from there. But everything went as planned this afternoon, it was good.”
30 Aug 2017 – Estonia and defending champions Canada will play for the gold medal at the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ Mixed Doubles curling tournament this afternoon.
They earned their places with hard-fought wins in this morning's semifinals, both decided on the last stone at Naseby's Maniototo Curling International rink.
The unbeaten Team Canada lined up against the strong Norway side of Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten, who have five consecutive top-ten World Championship results to their name. But once Kalynn Park picked out an opponent's stone to score 4 in the second end, the Canadians were never behind in the match.
Park hit out a Norway stone in the final end to secure a 9-8 win.
"It was tough, we battled initially until we got that four," said Canada's Charley Thomas after their game. "The ice was a little bit straighter there and we took a while to catch on, but then we started to make our shots."
"We're feeling good and doing our thing," he added, "and it just seems to be working for us. So we're looking forward to the final."
The lead changed hands five times in the match-up between Estonia and the previously unbeaten Koreans.
The breakthrough for Estonia came in the seventh end when they made the most of their powerplay, hitting and rolling behind guards to score three and get the buffer they needed for an eventual 8-5 victory.
"We were really nervous," said Estonia's Marie Turmann when she came off the ice. "Both teams really wanted to win, it was make or break for both of us."
When asked about their prospects for the final she replied, "Well we almost beat Canada in the round-robin, so maybe it's time for us to go one better today!"
29 Aug 2017 – Scotland made an emphatic statement when they scored a maximum six point end early in their last pool game at the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ Mixed Doubles curling tournament in Naseby this morning.
The stakes were high, with the third and last playoff spot from Pool A up for grabs. Korea and Norway had already assured themselves of places in the knockout rounds.
The early boost for the Scots proved invaluable as their Spanish opponents drew level after six of the eight ends. But the Scots scored in both remaining ends to get through.
"You can never be sure of anything in Mixed Doubles," said Scotland's Judith McCleary after their win. "We've been there before against the Spanish, scoring 5 in the first end and then losing the game! But today when it got to 7-all we just focussed, used our powerplay and got the job done."
"We definitely had a goal of making the playoffs here," added her playing partner and husband Lee. "There's a lot of good teams here, but now we've just got to believe in ourselves and play our own game."
Norway and Korea also had wins this morning, and the New Zealand 1 side of Bridget and Scott Becker gave the local crowd a boost with a win against the Swiss World Champions.
Estonia and Hungary played the main game in the early afternoon round, and again the stakes were high. The winner was straight into the playoff games while the loser had to wait on other results. Marie Turmann and Harri Lill stole a nail-biting final end for Estonia to record a one shot win.
Finland also stole the last end of their game, and so the Finns – who thought they were out of contention last night – now find themselves in a tiebreaker this afternoon against the Hungarians.
Canada completed a clean sweep of their pool games, and the New Zealand 2 side finished their competition in style with a consolation win over China.
28 Aug 2017 – A big five-point end early in their game against Spain propelled Korea to their fifth straight win on the third day of the Audi quattro Winter Games Mixed Doubles curling tournament in Naseby today.
Korea's Kijeong Lee was looking ahead. "Our first goal here was to reach the playoffs," he said after their game. "Now we would like to qualify top, to go direct [to semifinals]."
"We are getting more used to the ice conditions, our hits and runbacks are working well, and now we want to work more on our draw shots."
In the same pool, wins to Norway and Scotland put them at the head of the chasing pack for a top-three place that would get them into the playoff matches.
Both have dropped just one game, and they will meet in a crunch match tonight. Switzerland beat the young New Zealand 3 side to keep their hopes alive.
The other eight-team pool played in today's early morning round. Wins to Canada and Hungary left them well placed for progressing to the medal games. Behind them, Estonia, Finland, and Japan all have their chances.
Australia 1 also kept their hopes alive with a good win against the young Chinese side.
"That was a special win for us this morning," said Australia's Lynn Hewitt when the teams came off the ice. "I know this wasn't the same pair as at the World Championships, but I can't remember the last time any Australian curling team beat a Chinese side."
"We're feeling good," she continued. "We feel like we're in it now, we've given ourselves a chance. We just have to play good shots, keep hitting the broom with the right weight."
The last round of pool games will be played tomorrow at Naseby's Maniototo Curling International rink, with the top three in each pool progressing to playoffs.
27 Aug 2017 – World champions and Olympic contenders Switzerland had a slow start, with two losses on the opening day of the Audi quattro Winter Games Mixed Doubles curling tournament.
But they blew off the cobwebs to record their first win in the third round of pool play in Naseby this morning.
"We knew it might not be that easy with two tough games to start off," said Switzerland's Martin Rios. "It's a while before the Olympics and while you want to win every game, we're not stressed yet. We want to perform better than we did, improve step by step, and just need to be patient."
Korea edged New Zealand 1 to remain the only unbeaten team in the pool, while Scotland handed the young New Zealand 3 side their first loss. Norway also won to sit with the same 2-win, 1-loss record as the Scots and Kiwis.
Canada continued their winning way over Australia 1 this afternoon to retain the only 100% record in the other pool after three rounds. The Finns and Estonians also picked up handy wins.
New Zealand 2 looked on track for their first success of the competition but left the door open for Hungary to score 4 in the last end to take a one-point victory.
The Hungarians' escape allowed them to join Japan, Finland, and Estonia on 2 wins to sit behind Canada.
Despite losing on the last stone in their first-round game, Estonia's Harry Lill was pleased with the form he and Marie Turmann had shown to date. "We're happy with how it's going," he said. "For us and for most of the European teams this is our first tournament of the [northern] curling season. Even in our first game, it all seemed to come together, even though we didn't get the result."
26 Aug 2017 – Defending champions Canada and 2011 winners Hungary both made successful returns to Naseby when they won their games in the opening round of the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ Mixed Doubles curling tournament today.
"We're pretty happy with that," said Charley Thomas after Canada's first-up win over China. "It's about figuring out the ice for the first couple of games, so we're pleased with where we ended up. I think the ice is even better than for [yesterday's] practice, so it should be a good competition."
Hungary's György Nagy was equally pleased. "We play Finland quite often back home," he said. "They have qualified for the Olympics which we haven't, so this was a good start for us."
Go Aoki from Japan played an early candidate for the shot of the tournament with the last stone of their game against Estonia. Three down on the scoreboard and facing a house full of granite, Aoki's runback of an Estonian stone removed three opposing stones and left four of his own scoring to record an unlikely one-point win.
"I practice the runback every day," said Aoki after his spectacular shot. "But I was still very pleased – and a bit surprised – that it worked."
Australia 1 completed the opening session with a win against New Zealand 2.
The other pool of eight teams had their first games in the early afternoon. In the headline game, World champions Switzerland were beaten on the last stone by the Norwegian side who ranked 5th at the World Championship.
"That was our first game for the new season, so we are very happy with that," said Norway's Magnus Nedregrotten. "Before it we talked about getting our communication going well, and that worked for us. We made a good number of shots too – the ice was excellent, a little less swingy on the side but that's not unusual."
There were also wins for Korea over Scotland, for New Zealand 1 in an extra end against Spain, and for international debutants New Zealand 3 over Australia 2.
The young Kiwis admitted to being nervous throughout the game but both relished the experience. "We didn't make all of our shots," said Ben Smith, "but we must have made enough of them."
"We got our draw weight fairly early," added his sister and playing partner Jess, "and that definitely helped with the nerves."
Round-robin play continues through until Tuesday at Naseby's Maniototo Curling International rink.
18 Aug 2017 – The current World Champions, a smattering of other top-10 sides, and two previous Winter Games gold medallists should ensure some thrilling curling at this month's Audi quattro Winter Games NZ Mixed Doubles tournament.
"This is the best field ever to take to the ice outside a World Championship", said Sam Inder, Winter Games Curling Manager.
"With the Winter Olympics just around the corner, six of the eight nations in the Mixed Doubles at PyeongChang are sending teams to the Winter Games."
"The current World Champions from Switzerland, Martin Rios and Jenny Perret, have to be among the favourites," he continued, "as do the Norwegian team who have had five top 10 finishes in the last five years."
"The Finland and Korea sides were also in the top 10 at the Worlds this year."
Canadians Kalynn Park and Charley Thomas are back to defend their 2015 Audi quattro Winter Games title. 2011 champions, Ildiko Szekeres and György Nagy from Hungary are also in the 16-team field.
The New Zealand challenge will be headed by Maniototo brother and sister Bridget and Scott Becker, with Bridget being a two-time medallist at previous Games.
Joining them are Eleanor Adviento and Brett Sargon, who finished 7th at the 2015 Games, and first-time internationals Jessica and Ben Smith.
The teenage Smith siblings, silver medallists in last year's NZ championship, are not daunted by the task ahead of them.
"This is an insanely big opportunity for us," said Ben. "We're just looking forward to playing these high-class teams and see how we go, to compare ourselves and look forward to the future."
"To get this experience against top-level players will be really good for us," agreed Jess. "And the fact that it's literally on our doorstep as well is just awesome."