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Men’s curlers leave retirement residence, World Champs next

The Central App

Anna Robb

29 March 2024, 4:30 PM

Men’s curlers leave retirement residence, World Champs nextThe farewell cake at Chartwell Colonel Belcher Retirement Residence for Team Hood. PHOTO: Team Hood Facebook

After six months in a retirement home in Canada, the New Zealand Men’s Curling team (Team Hood) are about to test their skills against the best curlers in the world.

The World Men’s Curling Championships (WMCC) are in Schaffhausen, Switzerland from March 30 to April 7.

Team Hood is made up of four athletes, three who have connections to Central: Hunter Walker (Kyeburn), Ben Smith and skip Anton Hood (Naseby). 

The other team members are Brett Sargon (Auckland) and Peter de Boer (Wellington).  

The team qualified for the 2024 World Championships at the Pan Continental Championships in Kelowna, Canada last year where they came fifth. 

It will be the second WMCC for Team Hood. Last year they placed thirteenth in Ottawa, Canada, and won a single match against Germany. 

Their coach and reserve player Peter de Boer skipped NZ to fifth place at the last World Championship a Kiwi men's side attended in 2012. 

Pictured are (from left) Hunter Walker (background), Ben Smith, Brett Sargon (obscured by cap) at the WMCC in 2023 playing a match against Switzerland. PHOTO: Supplied

Team Hood’s first game is against Norway on March 30, then the Czech Republic and Japan the following day. 

The format is 20 sessions of round-robin play from March 30 until April 5 to determine the top six-ranked teams. The teams ranked top and second will proceed directly to the semi-finals.

For teams ranked third to sixth, qualification games will take place, and then semi-finals.

The bronze medal game and then final will be on April 7.

Schaffhausen is a historic town one hour north of Zürich, and this is the first WCC to be held there.

The WMCC dates back to 1959, and 13 of the top men’s teams will be representing their nations at this event.

Teams taking part are from Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

As well as having world titles and medals on the line, WMCC is the first of two Olympic qualifiers. With Italy already qualified as hosts, altogether seven nations will qualify for the 2026 Olympic Winter Games in Milan-Cortina.

The New Zealand Women’s curling team (Team Smith) have recently participated in the Women’s World Curling Championships (WWCC) in Sydney, Canada. 

The team of Jess Smith (skip), Courtney Smith, Bridget Becker, Holly Thompson and Natalie Thurlow qualified for the tournament with a fifth placing at November's Pan Continental Championships.

Team Smith together with their coach Sean Becker (on left). PHOTO: Supplied

At this year’s WWCC they beat Scotland 8-6, the first win they’ve had at this level. It is only their second appearance at the tournament, they debuted in Sweden in 2023 and were winless through the tournament, battling illness. 

Team Smith made a statement in pink uniforms to spread breast cancer awareness in partnership with sponsor Foxglide. 

Jess said as a health professional and someone who has seen close family and friends affected by breast cancer, she was proud to be involved with the campaign.

“Awareness creates knowledge and knowledge is power. If we can help even just one person then we have made a difference.”

Wearing pink for breast cancer awareness for their game against Sweden. PHOTO: Supplied

Fans can send messages of support to the team via the Team Hood Facebook page

Team Hood’s games can be viewed online on the World Curling Channel.