First athletes named for Aussie Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic team

Photo credit: AOC|OWIA

With 18 days to the Beijing Winter Olympics, Australia has today announced the first official athletes to the team.

Australia’s first Olympic curlers in history,  Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt, will be donning the green and gold.

After securing their mixed doubles quota in a nail biting, undefeated run in the final Olympic Qualification Tournament in the Netherlands in December, the pair was nominated by Australian Curling Federation and officially selected by the Australian Olympic Committee.

While Australia competed when Curling was a demonstration sport at Albertville 1992, today’s selection means 22-year-old Gill, who grew up in Brisbane and 27-year-old Victorian Hewitt will become Australia’s first Olympians in the sport.

Currently preparing for the Games in Alberta, Canada, the pair has shown they are in the top tier of world curling, finishing fourth in the 2019 World Championships in Norway, and winning seven straight matches against world class opponents to secure one of only two quota spots on offer at the final Olympic Qualification Tournament.

Chef de Mission for the Australian Olympic Team for Beijing, Geoff Lipshut, said today was a fantastic milestone for the Australian Winter Olympic Team.

“Congratulations to Dean and Tahli, I am thrilled to be able to announce you both as Australia’s first team members for Beijing 2022,” Lipshut said.

“Dean and Tahli have shown they are not only world class athletes, but world class people. They have attacked this Olympic cycle with dedication and determination and have overcome immense challenges to earn their spot at Beijing.

“This is a great day to celebrate not just for Dean and Tahli, but for everyone who has helped them reach this moment. Thank you to the Australian Curling Federation and sport institutes for developing and nurturing their talent from juniors to the elite level, and the coaches, family members and friends who were there every step of the way.

“And for all of those curlers who have come before – thank you for blazing a trail throughout the years that has built towards Dean and Tahli competing on the world’s biggest stage this February. Now millions of Australians will see Australian curlers and want to get out there and have a go, to help inspire the next generation of winter athletes.”

The Curling competition will take place in the same venue that hosted the 2008 Olympic swimming events, renamed the ‘Ice Cube’ in 2022 from the ‘Water Cube’.

“It feels incredible and surreal still even now,” Gill said. “This has been a lifelong dream for both of us, and for it to finally be coming true is so unreal.

“When we hit that winning shot, I think I was mostly in shock, because we have worked so hard for so long on this one goal and now we’ve actually achieved it.”

Hewitt agreed, adding his anticipation for what this means for Curling in Australia.

“Qualifying was a mixture of excitement, pure joy and relief,” Hewitt said. “It was a culmination of years of training all unfolding in the way we planned for and how much we have dedicated towards the sport.

“Curling gets a spark of interest after the Olympics, by having an Aussie team competing in Mixed Doubles for the first time hopefully will get even more people in Australian interested in trying the sport. Curling is so unique from other sports in Australia, we think a lot of Aussies we be excited to see a team at Beijing, especially going in as underdogs.

“The reaction to our qualification has been huge. The messages and support we had from all corners of the globe and across so many sports was overwhelming. The amount of people who stayed up in the middle of the night to watch that game was incredible and we can’t thank everyone enough. Dad’s Olympic flag when straight up into the hallway and that’s when it started to hit home.”

The pair were destined to find a love of Curling, with Gill’s mother and both Hewitt’s parents competing for Australia, with Dean’s father Stephen competing at the Albertville 1992 Olympics when Curling was a demonstration sport. Dean not only saw his parents compete for Australia, but competed with them both at the international level.

“My mother Lynn grew up in Canada where the sport is huge and curled for many years at a high level before meeting my father – she taught him how to play and both competed for decades for Australia,” said Hewitt.

“I was surrounded by curling since I was born and I fell in love with the ice from the start. It was pretty cool to then be able to play alongside both parents at a number of National Championships and even two World Championships with my mother.”

Competition commences two days before the Opening Ceremony, with Hewitt and Gill starting their campaign against the USA on 2 February. The duo will play all nine other teams in a round robin pool format from 2-6 February before finals commence on the seventh.

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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.