Olympic spot in her sights

Mhairi-Bronte Duncan competes at last year’s national curling championships. PHOTO: NZ CURLING...
Mhairi-Bronte Duncan competes at last year’s national curling championships. PHOTO: NZ CURLING/JANYNE FLETCHER
When Mhairi-Bronte Duncan filled out her school leaver’s yearbook, she wrote she wanted to be a Winter Olympian.

Then she crossed it out.

It was something the then Otago Girls’ High School pupil had wanted to achieve since taking up curling as a year 10 pupil.

However, it was also something she was too scared to admit to, for fear of failure.

As it turns out, maybe she needed to give herself more credit.

The 23-year-old leaves for Europe on Tuesday to play alongside Auckland’s Brett Sargon at the curling mixed pairs Olympic qualifying tournament in Netherlands.

They will compete with 14 other countries for the final two spots in next year’s Beijing Games.

Before that, they will head to Sweden for nine days, which will enable them to train together — alert level restrictions having made that impossible in New Zealand.

Duncan was feeling good going into it and felt the team had a good chance, although she admitted the circumstances were somewhat "crazy".

"My doubles partner was saying the other day it’s probably the worst script you could ever write for trying to train to go to an Olympic qualifier," she said.

"But we’ve made it work.

"We’ve adapted, we’ve found ways around it — a bit of DIY with Zooming him into my training sessions.

"But I think, because it’s been so hard, it’s forced us to look into the mental skills side of it, which is something historically New Zealand’s been lacking in," she said.

"The fact we’re able to go overseas, I’m super excited.

"It’s such an amazing opportunity."

The trip was one Duncan was not taking for granted.

It was completely reliant on the duo securing managed isolation and quarantine spots.

Duncan did. Sargon did not.

However, they decided they would share a room in order to travel and compete.

It is not Duncan’s first foray on to the world stage.

She went to the junior B world championships in 2017 and 2018, as well as the 2019 world mixed championships.

Alongside that, she had spent a long stint training in Sweden before the Covid-19 pandemic.

That left her familiar with the big stage, and her Swedish home from 2019 would be where she would return to prepare this time.

The New Zealand duo might actually have a slight advantage when it comes to tournament conditions.

The Netherlands has returned to a partial lockdown, and the tournament will be held without crowds.

That would be closer to what Duncan and Sargon were used to, as opposed to the European teams which played in front of big crowds in curling hot spots.

Teams at the tournament are split into two pools of seven.

The top team from each pool progresses to a final.

The second- and third-placed teams will play a semifinal crossover against the other pool, before playing the top finisher for an Olympic spot.


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