Curling: Plan in place to help NZ men's team qualify for Olympics

Peter Becker.
Peter Becker.
New Zealand went into the Asia and Pacific curling championships underdone but should be better prepared for the Olympic qualification event next year.

New Zealand men's coach Peter Becker told the Otago Daily Times there had been some soul-searching after New Zealand's disappointing performance at Naseby last week.

A plan has been put in place to put the New Zealand men's team into a position to grab one of the last two spots for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, in Russia, in 2014.

The team will be picked after the New Zealand open championships next year and it will have a comprehensive programme leading to the Olympic qualifying event in December next year, at a venue yet to be decided.

The key events will be:New Zealand Winter Games, Naseby (August).

Asia and Pacific championships, Japan (November).

Olympic Qualifying Event (December).

"We also intend to send the team to Canada or Europe for intense competition," Becker said.

He said the players felt home-town pressure during the Asia and Pacific championships at Naseby last week when they finished second last in the round robin and failed to qualify for next year's world championships in Latvia.

"We had trained a lot at the rink and the team felt it was just another practice session and were not able to lift their performance," Becker said.

New Zealand teams traditionally take a few games to warm up in international competition but this year there was only one round robin of six games to reach the semifinals..

"In the past there has always been two full rounds and it has given us time to get into form," Becker said.

It also counted against the team because it did not have any tough pre-tournament competition.

Asia and Pacific champion China had competition on the Canadian circuit and other teams were engaged in meaningful competition in the lead up to the Asia and Pacific championships.

Peter Becker said the New Zealand Curling Federation would make sure the men's team had a better preparation for the Olympic qualification event.

The New Zealand selectors have indicated that spots in next year's men's teams are up for grabs and the team will be announced after the New Zealand open championships.

The World Curling Federation has not yet decided on the venue for the Olympic Qualifying Event.

Teams that competed at the world championships from 2011 to 2013 will be eligible to compete at the qualifying event.