Home ice advantage excites Kiwis

Curling is back and better than ever at Naseby with this year's New Zealand Winter Games.

Thirteen international mixed-doubles teams will be competing at the Maniototo international curling rink from tomorrow until Thursday in what is the first world curling tour event ever to be held in the southern hemisphere.

Many of the teams have strong credentials, including Team Canada's Jennifer Jones and Brent Laing, who boast five world titles between them, while Jones also won Olympic gold in Sochi in 2014.

But that does not faze the New Zealand teams, who are raring to get out on the ice.

Bridget and Sean Becker have the best international record of the Kiwi teams, highlighted by a world championship silver in 2010. They have also medalled twice at Winter Games, with bronze in 2011 and silver in 2013.

Bridget Becker has competed at every Winter Games since the first edition in 2009.

"We get the top international teams coming to New Zealand, curling on our ice. It's always good, seeing old friends and making new ones, and the curling is always top level.

"We want to enjoy it, and we always want to improve. Curling with Sean for the first time in a long time, it should be fun."

Elsewhere it is a Winter Games debut for Maniototo locals Anton Hood and Holly Thompson, both still in the junior, under-21 ranks.

"We're stoked about playing an international competition on home ice . . . and against some of the very best international sides," Hood said.

"We've been training together every weekend since we were selected just a couple of months ago.

"But we've only had one tournament together, and that was our nationals. We'd just like to play well this week."

Pool play takes place from tomorrow through to Wednesday, and the medals are decided on Thursday.

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