The ice was cold but the competition was hot in Naseby last weekend.
Sixteen teams from throughout the country took part in the 2022 New Zealand Mixed Doubles Qualifier at the Naseby Ice Rink — the largest number of teams the tournament has seen.
A mix of up›and›coming curlers and elite national representatives— including world champion silver medallists, siblings Bridget and Sean Becker; and Anton Hood and Courtney Smith who just missed out on Winter Olympic selection in Scotland last year — were vying for a top spot on the board.
The qualifier is the first step on the road to the World Mixed Doubles Championship in Korea next year.
The top six qualifying teams move on to compete at the New Zealand Mixed Doubles Championship in September, with one team going on to represent New Zealand.
Matches throughout the tournament were fiercely contested, often coming down to the wire — or millimetre.
On day two of the tournament, an end between siblings Ben and Jess Smith, and Hunter Walker and Ruby Kinney saw officials step in to give an official measure when the distance between two stones was too close to determine.
The winning stone was confirmed — by quarter of a millimetre.
Chief umpire Darren Carson said it was not very often it got that close
‘‘It was extremely close,’’ he said.
While strategy, skill and experience came out on top, some of the newer teams gave the established players ‘‘a bit of a fright’’.
‘‘We’ve got the teams out there that everyone’s looking over their shoulder; it’s great to have that depth.’’
In the end it was the experienced pairing of Jess and Ben Smith who qualified in the top spot with a score of 7-0, followed by brother›sister duo Bridget and Sean Becker.
Also qualifying for the national championships were Courtney Smith and Anton Hood; Natalie Thurlow and Warren Dobson; Ruby Kinney and Hunter Walker; Lucy Neilson and Warren Kearney.