#ChasingWinter: Mixed Doubles... | Australian Olympic Committee
 

#ChasingWinter: Mixed Doubles Curling Team eyeing up history-making Olympic qualification event

Author imageAOC03 Dec 2021
Dean Hewitt & Tahli Tahli Gill

Australian curlers Dean Hewitt and Tahli Gill are looking to make history this weekend, with the Mixed Doubles pair having one final chance to qualify for Beijing 2022 and become Australia's first ever Olympic curlers.

The pair will need to finish in the top two of the mixed doubles tournament at the Olympic Qualifying Event in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, from 5 to 9 December to claim the last remaining quota spots for Beijing.

 

Hewitt and Gill were both on the ice at a young age, with their families playing a key role in sparking their curling interest.

"My mum is Canadian, so it was natural for her to be a curler," Hewitt said. "When she met my dad, who is Australian, she taught him and they played for Australia for years, so then it was just natural for me to take it up as well."

Gill, on the other hand, grew up as a competitive figure skater Before being inspired by watching the Winter Olympic Games.

"My mum saw curling on the TV and became interested in the sport, ," Gill said. "Mum called up the local ice-skating rink I was training at and asked if they offered curling, which they didn't, but a few other people were interested in the sport, so they all got together and started a club in Brisbane.

"I was always interested in what my mum was doing and as soon as I got into late primary school, she let me come along to the training sessions. I was doing both figure skating and curling for a while, but I soon fell out of love with skating and fell more in love with curling, so decided to swap sports."

Gill and Hewitt competed in the national junior teams, progressing to senior men's and women's team, before pairing up as a mixed doubles team in 2018. While there is a high level of physicality involved in curling, particularly in the sweeping aspect of the sport, it also requires a strong mental game. Athletes are required to stay focused for the entire duration of the game, which can go for up to 2.5 hours.

"The game is so fast paced so you need to be constantly thinking and constantly adapting. You need to be looking at what the ice is doing and really thinking about all the different things that might affect the game," Gill said.

 

 

"It's mainly physical until you get to the elite level. Once you're at the elite level, the difference between the top teams is mental and the slight differences in strategy," Hewitt continued.

A year after becoming a team, Hewitt and Gill had a breakthrough performance at the 2019 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships in Stavanger, Norway, finishing fourth overall to claim the best-ever World Championship finish for an Australian curling team.

"Fourth at Worlds was definitely a career highlight. Playing in the semi-finals was awesome, and definitely something that we're going to aim to do again," Gill said.

"It was great to see what we're capable of, to be up there with some of the best teams in the world and have that experience and confidence boost for our journey to come."

After a heavily disrupted 2020 with COVID-19 restricting Gill and Hewitt's ability to train and compete, the pair are now in Alberta, Canada where they have been based for the past two months. This included a victory in the Okotoks Classic, beating Canadian World Championship medallists Laura Walker and Kirk Muyres in the final.

"It has been great training here in Alberta, our coach lives here so we have been able to get back on the ice with him," Hewitt said.

"We've also had a couple of events which have been really good because the field of play has been amazing. You can't ask for better teams, especially being in Canada where curling is so popular, and the teams are so strong," Gill said.

"Being able to play against the top teams has been really good for our development and our preparation leading into the upcoming Olympic qualification event."

The final Olympic qualification event for Curling is coming up this weekend (5-9 December), where Gill and Hewitt are hoping to secure Australia a spot for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. With only the top two teams earning a quota, the pair will face off against six teams drawn in their pool in round robin play, with the top teams progressing to knockout finals to secure their place at Beijing 2022.

 

"There's 14 countries battling it out for the top two spots at the Olympic qualification event. So, it's going to be a bit of a battle and all the teams are really strong, so it will be exciting," Gill said.

"To qualify for the Olympic Games would be incredible. The years of dedication and seeing that come to fruition and to have your goals being achieved, that would be huge and something really special." Hewitt said.

"It would be amazing for the sport in Australia too. Hopefully, if we qualify for the Olympics, it brings some more interest and we can build a curling rink in Australia, which would be massive for the sport."

As for advice they would give younger Australians wanting to have a go at the sport, both Gill and Hewitt said that kids just need to get out there and give it a go.

"The next generation just need to get involved in the curling community from a young age. It's such a special community to be a part of. Everyone you meet in Curling is so friendly, the sporting environment is so supportive and everyone's there to wish you the best," Gill said.

"It is a sport you can play throughout your whole life, from the age of six to 86. You can curl with anyone, at any age, and it's so sociable. There's also so many aspects of the game, it's got the physicality, but also the strategy side of things and the mental side."

The final Olympic Qualifying event for Mixed Doubles Curling will take place in Leeuwarden, Netherlands from December 5 2021. Watch live via Olympics.com.

Taylah O'Neill

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