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Historic Curlers first selected to Australian 2022 Winter Olympic Team

Author imageAOC16 Jan 2022
Curlers going to Beijing 2022

Curlers Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt have been announced as the first Australians selected to the Australian Winter Olympic Team for Beijing, with the pair also set to make history as Australia's first Olympic curlers.

After securing their mixed doubles quota in a nailbiting, undefeated run in the final Olympic Qualification Tournament in the Netherlands in December, the pair was nominated by Australian Curling Federation and officially selected by the Australian Olympic Committee.

 

While Australia competed when Curling was a demonstration sport at Albertville 1992, today's selection means 22-year-old Gill, who grew up in Brisbane and 27-year-old Victorian Hewitt will become Australia's first Olympians in the sport.

Currently preparing for the Games in Calgary, Canada, the pair has shown they are in the top tier of world curling, finishing fourth in the 2019 World Championships in Norway, and winning seven straight matches against world class opponents to secure one of only two quota spots on offer at the final Olympic Qualification Tournament.

Chef de Mission for the Australian Olympic Team for Beijing, Geoff Lipshut, said today was a fantastic milestone for the Australian Winter Olympic Team.

"Congratulations to Dean and Tahli, I am thrilled to be able to announce you both as Australia's first team members for Beijing 2022," Mr Lipshut said.

"Dean and Tahli have shown they are not only world class athletes, but world class people. They have attacked this Olympic cycle with dedication and determination and have overcome immense challenges to earn their spot at Beijing.

"This is a great day to celebrate not just for Dean and Tahli, but for everyone who has helped them reach this moment. Thank you to the Australian Curling Federation for developing and nurturing their talent from juniors to the elite level, and the coaches, family members and friends who were there every step of the way.

"And for all of those curlers who have come before – thank you for blazing a trail throughout the years that has built towards Dean and Tahli competing on the world's biggest stage this February. Now millions of Australians will see Australian curlers and want to get out there and have a go, to help inspire the next generation of winter athletes.

"With just 19 days until the cauldron is lit in Beijing, I look forward to announcing further selections in the coming week as the Team assembles to an estimated size of around 45 athletes."

The Curling competition will take place in the same venue that hosted the 2008 Olympic swimming events, renamed the ‘Ice Cube' in 2022 from the ‘Water Cube'. 

"It feels incredible and surreal still even now," Gill said.

"This has been a lifelong dream for both of us, and for it to finally be coming true is so unreal.

"When we hit that winning shot, I think I was mostly in shock, because we have worked so hard for so long on this one goal and now we've actually achieved it."

Hewitt agreed, adding his anticipation for what this means for Curling in Australia.

"Qualifying was a mixture of excitement, pure joy and relief," Hewitt said. "It was a culmination of years of training all unfolding in the way we planned for and how much we have dedicated towards the sport. 

"Curling gets a spark of interest after the Olympics, by having an Aussie team competing in Mixed Doubles for the first time hopefully will get even more people in Australian interested in trying the sport. Curling is so unique from other sports in Australia, we think a lot of Aussies we be excited to see a team at Beijing, especially going in as underdogs.

"The reaction to our qualification has been huge. The messages and support we had from all corners of the globe and across so many sports was overwhelming. The amount of people who stayed up in the middle of the night to watch that game was incredible and we can't thank everyone enough. Dad's Olympic flag when straight up into the hallway and that's when it started to hit home."

"People who have followed our journey are so happy and proud of us," Gill added. "The best reaction was definitely watching my family's reaction to the winning shot! My younger sister set up a sneaky video of everyone's live reaction, lots of cheering, screaming and crying! It was emotional to watch and talk to them after the event, because they have been on this journey with me and know everything we have sacrificed to get to the Olympics."

The pair were destined to find a love of Curling, with Tahli's mother and both Dean's parents competing for Australia, with Dean's father Stephen competing at the Albertville 1992 Olympics when Curling was a demonstration sport.

"My mum saw it on the Olympics one year and thought it would be a really cool sport to try," Gill said. "No ice rink in Brisbane offered it as a sport, but mum and some friends all got together and started the first Curling club in Brisbane. I would always see her go to training, watching games in YouTube, and competing overseas for Australia at a young age. She inspired me to start Curling and has been one of my biggest role models, support, motivation and inspiration not just in Curling but also in life."

Dean not only saw his parents compete for Australia, but competed with them both at the international level.

"My mother Lynn grew up in Canada where the sport is huge and curled for many years at a high level before meeting my father - she taught him how to play and both competed for decades for Australia. I was surrounded by curling since I was born and I fell in love with the ice from the start. It was pretty cool to then be able to play alongside both parents at a number of National Championships and even two World Championships with my mother."

Competition commences two days before the Opening Ceremony, with Hewitt and Gill starting their campaign against the USA on 2 February. The duo will play all nine other teams in a round robin pool format from 2-6 February before finals commence on the seventh.

Australian Curling Federation President Kim Forge said today is a monumental day for Curling in Australia. 

"Congratulations Dean and Tahli!" Ms Forge said. "Securing a spot for Beijing in 2022 is an impressive feat, but what makes this even more incredible is that all of this was achieved without having one dedicated curling rink in our country! 

"We watch with anticipation and congratulate Tahli and Dean on this milestone. Australians will be in awe of your grit and determination. You are exceptional athletes, stand proud, we are all behind you. You are Olympians!"

Find out more about Curling at the Olympics in the infographic below.

Watch their recent video podcast with Matt Denny.

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WATCH / Matt Denny is join by Australia's first curlers to qualify for an Olympic Games

Share your 'Good Luck' message in support of the Team. Record a video or take a picture and submit it here or post on social media including the tags #ChasingWinter and @AUSOlympicTeam

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