Hood keeps sliding to more success

Anton Hood sweeps the ice at this year’s Junior World Curling Champs in Nova Scotia, Canada....
Anton Hood sweeps the ice at this year’s Junior World Curling Champs in Nova Scotia, Canada. PHOTO: RICHARD GRAY
Maniototo curler Anton Hood has emerged as one of the sport’s brightest talents and already tasted success on the international stage. Central Otago reporter Adam Burns spoke to the competitor about his future curling ambitions and how he juggles his various commitments in the local community.As the sport of curling continues to surge, Kyeburn's Anton Hood has been riding the wave.

The 19-year-old is one of the country's rising stars of the sport and he has big aspirations alongside his Kiwi curling brethren.

It has already been a busy year for the young hotshot.

Hood was nominated for Junior Sportsman of the Year at this year's Central Otago Sports Awards, which was won by freeskiing ace Nico Porteous.

He has consistently found himself at the business end of every competition he has been involved in and achieved New Zealand curling history earlier in the year by being part of the New Zealand junior men's team which won gold at the World Junior B Championships in Finland in January and qualified for the World Junior Championship event.

A month later, the team came a respectable sixth placing at the team's inaugural appearance at the World Championships in Canada, meaning automatic qualification for next year's event.

Although still a junior, Hood has been a regular fixture among New Zealand men's curlers, having first made the team as a 16-year-old Maniototo Area School pupil in 2016.

Fellow Maniototo curler Hamish Walker debuted for the men's team a year later, for the Pacific-Asia championships.

The likes of Kiwi representatives Sean Becker and Warren Dobson have taken Hood under their wing, alongside Peter Becker, who previously coached him as a youngster.

"Once I made the team it was quite cool," Hood said.

"I got really keen on it because I was able to see some of the more talented players around the world compete, and I got to play against them. It just got me really excited."

Curling was a hard sport to avoid growing up around the wintry plains of Maniototo, after he first picked up a curling stone six years ago.

"Everyone at school was doing it. It was kind of hard not to get into it with where I lived, in Naseby," he said.

Hood has also been channelling his energies on the building site as well as the ice rink.

He is in his second year of a three-year building apprenticeship with Breen Construction.

"They've been really supportive from the start.

"They let me take time off for curling. They're really good about it which helps and takes a lot of the pressure off me."

Adding to his packed schedule, Hood has been a volunteer for the Naseby and Clyde fire brigades since 2015.

Pressure is something, however, the curler embraces rather than avoids, he says.

He has been working alongside former Black Caps paceman Shayne O'Connor around the mental pressures of competing at the top.

"He's been a big help for me in terms of dealing with what happens in an elite sport."

Now he has had a taste of competing on the world stage, Hood is hungry for more milestones.

November's Pacific-Asia Curling Championships in China serves as an opportunity for the New Zealand men's curlers to qualify for a World Championship event.

"Getting to a [World Men's Curling Championships] would be pretty big - 2012 was when we last made it.

"But the Olympics is the primary goal. The team is prepared to do anything in order to get there."

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