The New Zealand Olympic Committee has selected the first five athletes into the Youth Olympic Winter Games Team. Four curlers and one Individual Skills Ice Hockey athlete have been confirmed to represent New Zealand at the Games in Lillehammer, Norway in 2016.
Matthew Neilson Curling
Holly Thompson Curling
Ben Smith Curling
Courtney Smith Curling
Oliver Curtis Individual Skills Ice Hockey
Hosted from 12-21 February 2016 in Lillehammer, Hamar, Gjvik, yer and Oslo., 1,100 young athletes from the age of 14 to 18 from 70 nations will compete in 70 medal events across 15 winter disciplines.
As well as representatives from Curling and Ice Hockey, the New Zealand Olympic Committee is expected to receive nominations for the selection of further athletes from Snow Sports New Zealand in early January 2016.
Curlers Matthew Neilson (16), Holly Thompson (17), Ben Smith (16) and Courtney Smith (15) are all students at Maniototo Area School in Central Otago and have risen through the NZ Curling Development and Training programmes, winning gold at this years National Schools Curling Champs.
NZ Curling Association Chairman Sam Inder believes the four are great ambassadors for the sport and New Zealand.
There is a solid core of curling experience in this team and they have the ability to play to the highest level - they may even surprise themselves! Inder said.
With three of them playing in an International junior tournament in Finland just prior to Lillehammer, they will be getting the ideal buildup and practice.
This group of young people are great role models in their community and we are confident they will represent New Zealand well.
Fifteen-year-old athlete Oliver Curtis will be putting six specific Ice Hockey skills to the test when he competes in the Individual Skills Ice Hockey Challenge Event, which encompasses fastest lap, shooting accuracy, skating agility, fastest shot, passing precision and puck control challenges.
Oliver began playing Ice Hockey as a nine year old when he was living in Switzerland. Upon his return to New Zealand two years later his talents were recognised. Oliver finished atop the National Selections in February 2015, and qualified among the International competitors in Vierumaki, Finland in July 2015.
The game has offered me fantastic opportunities which I plan to take advantage of as the future progresses, Curtis said.
New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation General Secretary Dr. Jonathan James Albright believes Oliver will add great value to the New Zealand Olympic Winter Games Team.
We have no doubt that Oliver will compete well at the Youth Olympic Games and represent his nation with fair play and respect, Albright said.
Matthew Neilson - Curling DOB: 16/05/99 AGE: 16 Hometown: Ranfurly Career Notes: NZ team - Pacific Asia Curling Championship 2015 (4th), NZ team - World Junior B Curling Championships 2016
Courtney Smith - Curling
Age: 15 Hometown: Ranfurly Career Notes: Silver medal: NZ Secondary School champs. Silver medal 2015 Under 21 NZ curling championships.
Benjamin Smith - Curling
Age: 16 Hometown: Ranfurly Career Notes: Gold Medal at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Curling Championship, 2 time gold medalist at New Zealand Under 21 Tournament, 2014 and 2015
Holly Thompson - Curling
Age: 17 Hometown: Ranfurly Career Notes: NZ Under 21's Curling representative since 2012. Won bronze in the Pacific Asia Junior Curling Championships 2015. NZ Under 21's Nationals Gold Medal.
Oliver Curtis Ice Hockey Skills
Age: 15 Hometown: Auckland Career Notes: Finishing 16th in International Ice Hockey Skills Competition Finland 2015 and qualifying for Youth Winter Olympics Lillehammer 2016. Captained Auckland to National U16 League title undefeated and awarded Most Valuable Player in NZ.