Curling: Veteran side forces defending champion to extra end

Maniototo skipper Sean Becker sends down a stone during his side's match against the Composite...
Maniototo skipper Sean Becker sends down a stone during his side's match against the Composite team during the New Zealand curling championships at the Dunedin Ice Stadium yesterday. Maniototo won 8-5. Photo by Craig Baxter.
You are never too old. Wendy Becker and her team of Central Otago veterans wanted to prove a point for elderly curlers at the weekend.

They entered the New Zealand open championships at the Dunedin Ice Stadium and almost pulled off a major upset.

The team of Carolyn Cooney, Christine Diack, Helen Greer and Wendy Becker forced defending champion Brydie Donald to an extra end.

The composite team of Jess Zinsli, Marisa Jones, Natalie Campbell and Donald won 8-7. Donald, Jones and Campbell are New Zealand representatives.

Wendy Becker and Cooney are New Zealand seniors representatives and Diack and Greer represented New Zealand in the 1990s.

Diack and Greer have not curled seriously since 2002 and thought they would come back this year to test the mettle of the younger players.

Donald (26), a health and physical education teacher at Otago Girls' High School, has represented New Zealand at the elite level since 2003 and has been in the winning team at the New Zealand open championships since the event was started in 2005. This was her seventh title.

It was the fourth title for Campbell and Jones.

"I was very worried," Donald said. "I didn't play very well in this tournament so I was lucky to have the girls in front of me doing the work."

Wendy Becker led 7-6 before the last end and Donald needed one shot to force the extra end.

She got this with her last rock when she pushed out Becker's shot stone to force the extra end.

On the extra end Becker had the last stone and this posed a problem for Donald.

"We just tried to junk up the front as much as we could with rocks to make it hard for Wendy's last stone to get in," Donald said.

Sean Becker, the son of Wendy Becker, skipped the winning men's team in the New Zealand open for the sixth time.

The Maniototo team of Dan Thurlow, Phil Dowling, Scott Becker and Sean Becker beat the Composite team of Iain Craig, Kris Miller, Kenny Thomson and Peter de Boer 8-5.

"It was one of the best games I've been involved with at the nationals. It was shot for shot," Sean Becker said.

Sean Becker is the most experienced elite curler in New Zealand but it is not getting any easier for him.

"The calibre of curling is getting better," Becker said. "It is great to see the junior teams competing as well."

The game was even at 4-4 after six of the 10 ends.

The Maniototo team went back into the lead with a two on the seventh end to lead 6-4.

The ninth end was critical and the umpire's measure went in Becker's favour by a centimetre and his side led 7-5 before the final end.

Becker used his experience to shut the game out on the last end by clearing the decks.

"We wanted to keep the end open because they had to score two to force the extra end," Becker said.

Dan Thurlow, a farmer from Becks, was the inexperienced lead who was added to the team at the last minute and won his first national title.

In the men's semifinals, Sean Becker (Ranfurly) beat Charlie McLeod (Dunedin) 11-2 and Peter de Boer (Auckland) beat Al Langille (Auckland) 9-1.

In the women's semifinals, Brydie Donald (Dunedin) beat the Youth Olympic team 8-4 and Wendy Becker (Ranfurly) beat Liz Matthews (Auckland) 10-3.



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