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National curling comp in Otago attracts best in NZ

Wednesday 7 Jul 2010 5:46 p.m.

By Dave Goosselink

It's held almost as often as the Olympics and attracts curlers from all over the country.

It's the Bonspiel and the first one in three years is being held in the Otago town of Oturehua thanks to rare, perfect ice conditions.

The fog hung low over the Idaburn Dam as hundreds of curlers turned out for the first Bonspiel since 2007.

Weeks of sub zero temperatures have turned the dam into a solid sheet of black ice, with room for 33 teams from across the country.

“We've got a team from Auckland and it goes right down to Southland, so we've got a great spread of curlers here today,” says ice master Robert Rutherford.

Despite getting just two days notice, over 270 curlers have answered the call, many small towns in the area emptying out for the day.

“Everybody's here, the bank managers and the garages and everything's all closed, they're all here,” says Owen Rawcliffe of the Kiwi Curling Club.

The sight of cracks around the dam doesn't seem to bother anyone; experts say the ice is strong enough to hold the weight of the players, along with over 500 heavy curling stones.

“You can hear the odd creak and groan going on, but that's part of the game. For safety reasons we don't call the match unless there's at least five inches of black ice,” says Elite Curler Sean Becker.

Many curlers are here for the social side, but they still take their matches very seriously.

New Zealand's one of the few countries that still holds national bonspiels, making this event a very prestigious competition.

For the country's top indoor curlers like Brydie Donald, the rugged outdoor surfaces are a fresh challenge.

“Inside it's so much more controlled. The ice, you actually know what it's going to do,” says Donald.

The event finishes up tomorrow as the serious contenders compete for the national title – one they could potentially hold for many years.

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