World Qualification Event 2019 puts Naseby, New Zealand on the map

  • Photos: © WCF / Clare Toia-Bailey

It wasn’t just the four teams that qualified for their world championships – China and Finland women and Korea and Netherlands men – that were winners at the inaugural World Qualification Event 2019. Many people, organisations and businesses in and around host town Naseby, New Zealand, finished the event with smiles on their faces too.

The World Qualification Event is a new pathway to the World Curling Championships and eight teams of each gender from all over the world took part.

The local organising committee was led by New Zealand Curling President Sam Inder and despite Naseby’s isolation from the rest of the curling world and the fact that the local permanent population is just over 100 souls, he pointed out that the local community are really experienced in putting on major curling events – including the annual Winter Games New Zealand.

He said: “This is the biggest event we’ve held in this last decade. An international tournament of this level is so important, so prestigious. But, it feels pretty good to have it come off, when everybody does their job. It’s difficult co-ordinating, but when the professionals get here – the ice-makers, the WCF people – it just flows.”

Although proud of his organising team’s achievements, Sam also put some perspective on the approach that folks take in Naseby. He continued: “We know our facilities are reasonably basic, but we’re honest – this is us, take us as you find us.”

Sam also emphasised that it’s not just curling that benefits from the regular national and international events staged in Naseby: “The economic impact is major, there’s over a 100 visitors in town for this, so in a small community that’s quite significant. The business community have been our biggest supporters, we and they are pretty chuffed with the way it’s gone.”

The Naseby curlers aren’t resting on their laurels either. Sam continued: “We’re starting to look at our facilities. There are things we can do here. We’ll be happy to welcome people here to enjoy our country’s hospitality. Curling and Naseby are synonymous.”

Pictured above: New Zealand women’s skip Jessica Smith receives a participation certificate from organisers Sam Inder and Robbie Dobson

The World Qualification Event also put Naseby on the map, with an unprecedented level of local, national and international coverage. New Zealand Curling Media Officer Ian Ford was at the heart of the communications aspect of the event.

He said: “For New Zealand Curling this has been great. This event has been well picked up by press, national television and national radio. The local media has always been good in supporting our events and they’ve done a good job here.”

He pointed out that among others, New Zealand’s national television broadcaster put out a special feature, New Zealand radio had a dedicated journalist attend for the last few days of competition and local paper, the Otago Daily News, also sent a reporter. That is over and above all the social media and web content produced by national federations and others.

Ian also touched on a feature of curling that seems to be the same the whole world over. He explained: “Curling is still a niche sport in New Zealand, but it’s well-publicised through the Winter Olympics, so at least you don’t have to explain what curling is any more.”

World Curling Federation Vice-President for Pacific-Asia, Hugh Millikin, was in town for this event, and he explained a couple of critical aspects of the event and its host community.

He said: “The push to move from 12 to 13 teams [at the world championships] was based on the success and strength of the Pacific-Asia region. The problem we’ve had is that qualification has been based on the number of teams in particular [regional] zones. But, this tournament gives an ability to balance round the world where the playing strength is coming from. The quality of play we’ve seen this week is another reason why we should have had this event. If you think about the teams that are here, they’ve demonstrated how strong they are. You’d say that the top four or five teams here are ‘on the bubble’.”

Hugh also explained that the World Curling Federation had every confidence in Naseby as hosts. He continued: “It’s great that it’s here in Naseby. This place has historically been a great venue, Naseby is the heart of Australia/New Zealand curling and we’ve been looking for championships that we can bring back to Naseby. It’s significant for the region and for the growth of the sport to have it here.”

While the rest of the world had to look out the maps and transport schedules to figure out how to get to this competition, Chief Umpire Darren Carson had the opposite problem. Having umpired at various world events up to and including the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, in South Korea, as a native of Naseby, he could stroll in every morning to start his duties.

About his experience on home ice, he said: “For this to be on our own doorstep is great. We’re showing the rest of the world what we can achieve. It is really special to be part of the first World Qualification Event in our own backyard – it’s just phenomenal.”

When you reach Naseby, the first thing you see is a sign that proclaims, “Welcome to Naseby – 2,000 feet above worry level!” When it comes to staging curling events well, maybe that explains a lot!

To look back at the World Qualification Event 2019 follow the World Curling Federation on Twitter, Instagram (@WorldCurling) and Facebook (/WorldCurlingFederation) and use the hashtags: #WQE019 #curling