Curling: Kazakhstan right at home after 50-hour trip

Kazakhstan men's curling team members (from left) Ilya Kuznetsov, Alexandr Orlov, Marat Smailov and Viktor Kim show off the fruits of a Central Otago hunting expedition this week. Photo supplied.
Kazakhstan men's curling team members (from left) Ilya Kuznetsov, Alexandr Orlov, Marat Smailov and Viktor Kim show off the fruits of a Central Otago hunting expedition this week. Photo supplied.
Kazakhstan men's curling team members (from left) Ilya Kuznetsov, Alexandr Orlov, Marat Smailov and Viktor Kim show off the fruits of a Central Otago hunting expedition this week. Photo supplied.
Kazakhstan men's curling team members (from left) Ilya Kuznetsov, Alexandr Orlov, Marat Smailov and Viktor Kim show off the fruits of a Central Otago hunting expedition this week. Photo supplied.
Kazakhstan skip Viktor Kim loves Naseby. He would like to live in the historic former gold mining town.

"There are no cellphones, no traffic, no pollution," Kim said.

"There is just nice weather and nice people."

It is the first time Kazakhstan has competed in the Asia and Pacific curling championships and the team has been a big hit with the locals.

They are staying at the Ancient Briton Hotel, which has retained its old world charm and serves basic healthy Kiwi tucker.

Kim (57), a civil engineer in the capital Almaty, is president of the Kazakhstan Curling Association that was formed nine years ago and is also chief national coach.

He is enjoying his time in the Maniototo and has been taken shooting and fishing by local farmers. He has photos to prove it.

"I have shot a deer and rabbits and have caught a rainbow trout. I think I am a better hunter than a curler."

The long journey from Almaty to Naseby took the Kazakhstan team more than 50 hours.

There are 800 registered curlers and 100 active players in the country. They have only been competing internationally for five years.

At the Asian Games in 2007 Kazakhstan was beaten by scores of 10-0 and 10-1.

The players are now more competitive and the men's team was only beaten 8-4 by defending champions China and the women's team beat Australia 9-7 on the scoreboard.

However, they lost the game because they did not complete their 10 ends in the allocated 1hr 26min.

"We are making progress. Our goal is to get to the Olympics."

The improving status of curling in Kazakhstan has been reflected in the state funding the team has received to come to New Zealand.

"Six years ago we got nothing.

"Last year the Ministry of Sport and the city of Almaty started to support us and we are grateful for that."

Team members paid three-quarters of the cost to come to New Zealand and the state paid the rest.

There are ice rinks in every city in Kazakhstan but that is no help to the curlers because they are monopolised by ice hockey.

"We have not been able to train or compete on the ice since 2007. We must travel to Russia, Poland and Latvia to compete in bonspiels."

A key member of the men's team is Aleksandr Orlov, who is the fulltime coach of the Kazakhstan Curling Association.

He was one of the best curlers in Russia before joining Kazakhstan.

Three members of the women's team - Olga Ten, Olga Zaitseva and Nadira Yunussova - represented the Soviet Union in gymnastics before the end of the Communist state. The other player in the women's team is Kim's daughter Jane.