Curling: Non-selection bitter blow for Becker

Sean Becker
Sean Becker
The national selectors dropped a bombshell when they did not pick top curler Sean Becker for this month's New Zealand Winter Games.

Being left out was particularly galling for the long-term New Zealand skip as the event is being held on his home rink at the Maniototo International Ice Stadium in Naseby.

"I'm bitterly disappointed not being there," Becker said yesterday from his Kyeburn farm.

"I wanted to play in the Winter Games. I'm very upset."

He has been replaced as skip by Dunedin's Dan Mustapic, a veteran of three world championships and a member of the New Zealand Olympic team in 2006.

Also absent from the team that won a bronze medal at last year's Pacific championships in Naseby is Rupert Jones, who was unavailable for both events because he is scheduled to have a hernia operation next week.

He has been replaced by New Zealand junior skip Kris Miller, of Ranfurly.

The selection panel of Merv Jamieson (Naseby) and John Allan (Auckland) did not pick Becker because he was not available for the Pacific championships in Tokyo in November.

The Winter Games team will represent New Zealand in Tokyo and selectors want to use the Naseby event to develop combinations.

"Dan is our skip this year," Jamieson said.

"We hope that Sean will be available again next year.

"The Winter Games will give our team a chance to gel. It will be a knitting-together period."

Becker has been in the New Zealand team since 1995 and has been the regular skip for most internationals since 1997.

He was skip at the 2006 Winter Olympics in 2006 and competed at the world championships in 1999, 2001, 2004 and 2005.

He has shifted from Patearoa to Kyeburn and wants to spend more time on the new farm over summer.

He also has a son who was born in April.

Cost is a consideration as well, as the New Zealand team has to pay its own way to Tokyo.

Becker thought this was the best year to have a break because performances at this year's Pacific championships and next year's world championships do not count for a country wanting to qualify for the 2014 Olympics in Russia.

Becker hopes to qualify for the New Zealand team for Russia and he said he needed to come in fresh to achieve this.

Jones pulled out of the Winter Games and the Pacific championship team because he needs an operation and felt this year was the best time to have it.

A country must finish first or second at the Pacific championships to qualify for the world championships.

"There are no qualifying points gained at next year's world championships so this was the best time for me to have a break," Becker said.

Jamieson said the Winter Games was a significant event for New Zealand curling.

"It is a new beginning for curling in this country," he said.

"It will be held each two years."

He said top-ranked women's teams Sweden (third) and Denmark (fourth) intended to take part in 2011.

• New Zealand
Winter Games teams

Men: Dan Mustapic (Dunedin), Warren Dobson (Mt Ida), Scott Becker, Warren Kearney, Kris Miller (all Ranfurly).

Women: Bridget Becker (Ranfurly), Brydie Donald (Dunedin), Marisa Jones (Ranfurly), Linda Geary (Auckland), Lucy Harris (Ranfurly).


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