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ALEXIA.JOHNSTON
@alliedpress.co.nz

World-class athletes are putting their skills to the test in Central Otago this week.

The small town of Naseby has been hosting the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ’s curling tournament throughout the week.

Other sports have been hosted at Cardrona, Snow Farm, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Queenstown Ice Arena.

Winter Games NZ,which features a range of winter sports, has included five days of curling at Naseby’s indoor curling rink.

Semi-finals and finals will be played today at 11.30am and 3.30pm respectively, and the public was welcome to watch, Winter Games NZ’s curling media officer Ian Ford said.

Three Australian teams, three from New Zealand and one each from Japan, Norway, Scotland, US, Canada, Finland and Italy have taken part in the curling tournament this time round.

The games had been held every two years, but will now become an annual event.

Mr Ford said it meant the curling section of the winter games could now be part of a world series tour.

Before the games, New Zealand’s teams agreed they were looking forward to meeting top international teams on home ice, and participating in the first World Curling Tour event to be held in the southern hemisphere.

More than half of the teams in this year’s tournament have competed at world mixed doubles championship level, while others have strong credentials, Mr Ford said.

Team Canada’s Jennifer Jones and Brent Laing have five world titles between them in women’s and men’s championships, and Jones won the women’s Olympic gold at Sochi in 2014.

New Zealand’s Bridget and Sean Becker have the best international record of the Kiwi teams, highlighted by a world championship silver in 2010. They have also won two medals at the winter games, securing bronze in 2011 and silver in 2013.

Bridget has competed at every Winter Games NZ since 2009, and said she loves it.

“We get the top international teams coming to New Zealand, curling on our ice. It’s always good, seeing old friends and making new ones, and the curling is always top level. It’s great.”