Riding horses and beating Canada at a home Games, some of the Italy skip's favourite things

  • Team Italy after securing their place at the Games © WCF / Alina Pavlyuchik

The moment Italy men qualified for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, is one of those great sporting memories that will be remembered for a long time.

Italy men, have competed at only one Olympic Winter Games before, in their home Games - Torino 2006, so to become the first Italian team to do so, on-ice, through the curling Olympic points system was always going to be special.

Skip Joel Retornaz - who played in the Torino Games - and his team fourth Amos Mosaner, second Simone Gonin, lead Daniele Ferrazza and alternate Andrea Pilzer, came through the round-robin - at the Olympic Qualification Event last December - with a five wins and three loses record, which was enough to put them into the first (1v2) qualifying game against Denmark.

Then, in that play-off game with the scores tied at 5-5 after the regulation ten ends, in the extra end, Italy's fourth player, Mosaner, played a tricky double take-out across the house to score the point needed to give his team the victory and a place at the Games.

It is safe to say the reaction that followed said it all…

Q: How does it feel qualifying for the Olympics?

Joel: Qualifying for the Olympics feels great of course. I've been to the Olympics before in 2006 as Italy was the hosting country. That was already the best sporting experience of my life. This time though it has a different taste as we managed to qualify by playing on ice and earned the right to be there - not because we were the host nation.

Q: Do you have nicknames within the team and what's the story behind them?

Joel: We have a lot of nicknames. Most of the times there is not a specific reason for them, we are just used to calling each other in that way without knowing:

Joel > JOY
Amos (Mosaner) > GOETZE
Simone (Gronin)> MOMO
Daniele (Ferrazza)> DANDA
Andrea (Pilzer)> GEBU

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Joel: Is it too easy if I say chocolate? I mean I really love chocolate and I live in Switzerland so how could that not be my guilty pleasure?!

Q: Where's the best place you have visited as a curler?

Joel: I really enjoyed Victoria in Canada where I played the Worlds in 2005. British Columbia in Canada is a wonderful place, great landscapes, nice nature. Really loved the city of Vancouver as well.

Q: What career would you have if you weren't a curler?

Joel: I have a career as I am not a full-time curler - I am a business man. I do have a company based in Lugano, Switzerland. We sell industrial super abrasives which are the raw materials used to make cutting tools.

Q: Who is the joker of the team and why?

Joel: I would say Daniele [pictured above, © WCF / Alina Pavlyuchik] is the joker of the team, not because he makes fun but because we always make fun of him and the good thing is he doesn't get angry. Most of the time he doesn't understand what people say because his English is not the best, so we fool him by translating something different for him.

Q: Who is the most serious member of the team and why?

Joel: I think I am the most serious member. There are lots of reasons why, like I am the oldest, I am the skip, I have been through this before. This does not mean I am not able to have fun but when it comes down to serious stuff just don't mess with me.

Q: What do you do in your spare time to relax?

Joel: I like riding horses and I own some. There is nothing more relaxing than a nice ride in the forest listening to the nature, except when my girlfriend screams at me because I am going too fast. See? I am not always the most serious!

Q: Greatest achievement as a rink and tell us a bit about it.

Joel: Beating Canada at the 2006 Olympics still remains one of the biggest achievements of my whole career. It was a weekend day so the arena was packed with Italian fans that at the time were just going crazy for curling! I was 22 years old and we were playing Canada with Russ Howard in the team. That guy had already won two world titles before I even started to curl - I started in 1994.

The game started well for us and we were fighting like lions. We managed to win in the extra end! No words to describe what happened when my last stone stopped. The crowd just went nuts.

In the run-up to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea we celebrate the success of the curling qualifiers heading to the Games in (8-25) February and (9-18) March.

In recent weeks and months, we have been speaking to the athletes that have been selected or qualified to represent their Member Association in the Gangneung Curling Centre.

To follow the build-up to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, follow us on Twitter, Instagram (@worldcurling) and Facebook (/WorldCurlingFederation) and use the hashtags: #Roadto2018 #curling

by Michael Houston, feature writer