Australian first as curlers qualify for Beijing Winter Games

SYDNEY : Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt will become the first Australians to compete in curling at the Olympics after winning a qualifying tournament for next year’s Beijing Winter Games.

The mixed doubles pair won all seven of their matches at the tournament in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands to claim one of the last remaining quota spots for the Feb. 4-20 Games in the Chinese capital.

Gill clinched their ticket in dramatic fashion in the final end of the tournament final against South Korea with the point that gave the Australians a 6-5 victory.

“It’s amazing,” said Hewitt. “I called Tahli about three and half years ago and said, ‘look, do you want to make a run at these Olympics?’. We’ve been working so hard over the past few months and the past couple of years, and it’s all paid off.”

Gill, 22, is a former figure skater from subtropical Brisbane, while 27-year-old Hewitt’s introduction to the sport came in the cooler climes of Melbourne through his Canadian mother.

Australian Olympic Committee chief executive Matt Carroll congratulated the pair and the Australian Curling Federation for the breakthrough.

“This wasn’t an easy path, but Tahli and Dean have shown outstanding form in this qualifying event with an unbeaten run. Their last match went down to the wire but they got there,” he said.

“The beauty of the Olympic Games is there is a sport for everyone and now we will see young Australians on the world stage in February in a sport many Australians will watch for the first time.”

Gill and Hewitt will join pairings from nine other nations in vying for the mixed doubles gold medal at Beijing’s National Aquatics Centre, which has been rebranded the Ice Cube for the Winter Games.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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