Curling: NZ playing for spot at Olympic Game

New Zealand is playing for an Olympic Games spot at the Asia-Pacific curling championships in Naseby next week.

A top two spot would secure the New Zealand men's team a place in next year's world championships in Victoria, Canada.

New Zealand's fifth placing at the world championships in Switzerland last year puts it in a strong position to qualify for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

But it could fall out of the picture if it does not finish in the top two in Naseby and qualify for the world championships.

Seven teams have entered for the men's event in Naseby: Australia, China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Korea, Kazakhstan and New Zealand.

New Zealand is fifth on the World Curling Federation's points table for the Olympics and China is ranked sixth.

Twelve teams have been ranked.

Korea is added as the 14th team because it contested the world championships in 2011. No other team in the Asia-Pacific championships is listed.

A repeat performance in Canada would qualify New Zealand for the Winter Olympics.

The World Curling Federation has confirmed the 2014 Winter Olympic qualifying points earned in Basle. This championship and the 2013 event in Canada are the only two where nations can gain automatic qualification for Sochi in 2014.

The top seven ranked teams gain automatic entry to the Olympics and host country Russia is also included.

The eight points New Zealand earned with fifth place at last year's world championships leave the side close to qualification. A mid-table finish at the 2013 event in Canada would be enough to guarantee it.

The remaining two places will be decided at an Olympic qualifying event in late 2013. Nations which have competed at the 2011, 2012 or 2013 world championships and have not already qualified will be eligible to compete at this event.

Four-time Asia-Pacific gold medal winner Rui Liu returns to skip the Chinese men's team that will be looking for back-to-back gold medals in Naseby.

Chang-Min Kim skips a Korean men's team looking to improve on last year's bronze medal finish, while Australia will be skipped again by 2011 world senior men's bronze medallist Hugh Millikin. Randolph Shen returns for the fourth year in a row to skip the Chinese Taipei team.

In the women's competition, teams from Australia, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea and New Zealand will play to secure the two World Curling Federation Asia-Pacific qualification places for next year's world women's championship in Riga, Latvia.

Korea is ranked fourth and China 11th. No other team competing in Naseby is listed. New Zealand finished third at the Pacific-Asia tournament last year.

Olympic bronze medallist Bingyu Wang returns as skip of the Chinese team for the eighth successive year.

Three-time Asia-Pacific junior silver medallist Eun-Jung Kim skips a young Korean team.


Asia-Pacific champs

• Venue: Maniototo International Curling Rink, Naseby.
• Date: November 18-25. Finals: Sunday, November 25 (women 9.30am, men 2pm).

• Women: Australia, China, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea and New Zealand.
• Men: Australia, China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea and New Zealand.

Held in New Zealand: 1994 (Christchurch), 2002 (Queenstown), 2008 (Naseby).

NZ teams:

• Women: Bridget Becker (Ranfurly), Brydie Donald (Dunedin), Marisa Jones (Ranfurly), Kelsi Heath (Auckland), Thivya Jeyaranjan (Auckland).
• Men: Peter de Boer (Auckland), Sean Becker (Ranfurly), Scott Becker (Ranfurly), Kenny Thomson (Auckland), Philip Dowling (Mt Ida). Warren Dobson (Mt Ida) reserve.

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