Three Central Otago youngsters are chasing their dreams of international curling in Norway this week.
Maniototo Area School pupils Olivia Russell, 17, and Jack Steele, along with Jed Neville, of Poolburn, make up three of the four-strong New Zealand Curling youth development squad.
The remaining member is Ellie McKenzie, 17, and coach Mhairi-Bronte Duncan, both of Dunedin.
The squad are attending the World Curling Academy’s youth training programme in Lillehammer, where they have been gaining valuable international training and experience.
A criterion for participants was they must be eligible to compete in the 2024 Youth Olympic Games in Gangwon, South Korea.
New Zealand is yet to name its Youth Olympic curling team and there is no guarantee those heading to Norway will be selected.
Speaking to The News before she flew out last week, Olivia Russell said she was looking forward to gaining international experience and meeting new curlers.
She has her eyes set on representing New Zealand at the Youth Olympics and felt the opportunity to gain international experience would be invaluable.
‘‘I want to take [curling] to the competitive level. I want to curl for the rest of my life,’’ she said.
Norway was a ‘‘bucket list’’ destination for her and she did not expect to tick it off at just 17.
Coach Duncan said the onand off-ice training the squad were set to receive would provide a strong foundation for the next season.
Off-ice activities would involve Olympic values sessions, nutrition, injury prevention, core training and strength and sport psychology.
‘‘[It will] give them a really good foundation going in to the next season,’’ she said.
‘‘The opportunity to send four kids for a week to get that real international training is going to make a massive difference to [them] and hopefully they will be able to come back and and share with the others that couldn’t go what they learnt.’’
The curling community in New Zealand was very small, so the opportunity to play against new curlers helped to lift the level of play, Duncan said.
‘‘It’s a big advantage to go overseas and play.
‘‘Because within New Zealand we just feel so far away from everywhere else, and because it costs so much we can only attend one or two [international] events a year. . .the opportunity to meet other curlers and get more experience is invaluable.’’
She was ‘‘blown away’’ by the way the Maniototo and Central Otago communities had backed the squad to get overseas.
The development squad return on Sunday.