The New Zealand Winter Games are underway today through August 30, with multiple nations from the Pacific region – plus a few others – competing in this new international sport competition.
The inclusion of curling – plus the proximity to February’s upcoming Olympic Winter Games– makes this of interest.
Five days of live curling competition – with three draws a day – will be broadcast on Sky Television in New Zealand. And Kiwi curler (by way of Canada) Hans Frauenlob has been tabbed for colour commentary duties.
“By my reckoning that’s 28 hours of live curling,” Frauenlob told The Curling News. “I’m going to need throat lozenges.”
Incidentally, Frauenlob received his “Olympic Number” this year, along with his teammates from New Zealand’s 2006 Olympic curling squad. These stories (here and here) explain the program, in which Kiwi Olympians are “numbered” according to the first Olympic Games in which they competed, and alphabetically within that team, and receive a ring commemorating their achievement.
Frauenlob is number 986.
On the ice, powerhouse women’s teams include defending world champions China, skipped by Bingyu Wang and 2007 world semifinalists Japan, skipped by Moe Meguro. They are challenged by teams from New Zealand (Bridget Becker), Australia (Kim Forge) and Korea (Min-A Park).
On the men’s side, Japan’s youthful Yusuke Morozumi is one to watch, as is 21-year-old U.S. skip Jerod Roland, who has been named captain of the entire U.S. team. China’s Fengchun Wang is a definite gold-medal threat, while Korea is represented by Min-Chan Kim, Australia is helmed by veteran Hugh Millikin, and Karel Kubeska’s Czech Republic is there, too.
Two other men’s teams of note: Canada is represented by Calgary’s Cliff Butchko, who commands a team of forty-somethings from the Huntington Hills Curling Club. It’s the first international appearance for the squad, which has been described as a decent Superleague foursome. We’ll watch these rookies with interest!
[UPDATED: a story on the Canadians has just been posted here]
Finally, the host team is skipped by Dan Mustapic, another expat Canadian and a former teammate of longtime national team skip Sean Becker, who was rejected for the Games by a selection panel earlier this month. You can read all about that controversial decision here.