Australia's first ever Olympic curlers were given a 'late reprieve' allowing them to continue in their Olympic journey. Tahli Gill and partner Dean Hewitt made history in their trailblazing campaign, registering a first Australian Olympic curling win before beating the reigning Olympic champion.
You get five rocks per end, you must slide it down 146 to 150 feet of ice towards a round target in the ice. The team with the closest rock, or rocks, to the centre of that target gets a point for each rock at the end. Simple enough right? For Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt, their journey to Olympic participation was much more complicated.
Tahli Gill-Dean Hewitt Curling team
- Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt compete in the mixed curling event at the Beijing Olympics and are Australia's first ever Olympic curlers.
- The team were given a 'late reprieve' to keep competing in Beijing, after having earlier been told they would have to pull out due to a COVID-19 positive result to Gill.
- Gill-Hewitt won Australia's first ever Olympic curling match, beating Switzerland before taking down Canada.
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The journey to Beijing 2022 was not an easy one for Australians Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt. It was a long road that required both athletes to overcome odds to reach their Olympic dreams.
That isn’t to say that Olympic curling wasn’t in their blood.
Hewitt’s father Steve had tasted Olympic competition. Papa Hewitt was part of an Australian demonstration Olympic team in 1992. The demonstration worked, with curling becoming a full Olympic sport in 1998 at the Nagano games. His mother, a Canadian and fellow curler, likewise convinced him to pursue the sport.
Gill’s mother for her part saw the sport on television during a Winter Olympics. Despite no curling being played in Queensland, Mama Gill found Canadian and American expatriates and formed a curling club in Brisbane, and ultimately represented Australia herself.
Fast forward to 2018. Mixed doubles curling, with one woman and one man, made its first appearance at the Winter Olympics in Pyongchang.
A few months later, three years ago, seeing an opportunity for Olympic participation Hewitt was persuaded by his mother to call Gill, whom both knew in the tight-knit Australian curling world, and ask her if she would like to partner and attempt qualification.
The issue though is that Australia has no dedicated curling rings anywhere in the country, just temporary curling facilities Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Despite the lack of infrastructure, the Aussie duo managed to pull off the impossible.
They relocated to Canada to train with the original hopes of qualifying for the 2026 Winter Olympics. They over-performed, qualifying four years earlier than their target Games. This past week Gill-Hewitt became the first Australian Olympians to officially participate in the sport of curling.
They opened Australia’s official Olympic curling history with a debutant match the USA. They were narrowly defeated 5-6 in their maiden game. Gill-Hewitt would then face six other teams, finishing with a 0-7 record.
Our curlersÂ have shown they can mix it with the best in the world at #Beijing2022.— AUS Olympic Team (@AUSOlympicTeam) February 3, 2022
They only just missed out on a win against China and have another chance tonight against the Czech Republic.
👉 https://t.co/TSsduu9msd#ChasingWinter | @OWI_AUS pic.twitter.com/JWPlcIqrq6
The Australian Olympic Committee then announced early on Sunday, February 6 that Gill had had successive positive tests for COVID-19, ending the duo's Olympic campaign two matches early. She had contracted the disease prior to the games, but after having alternate positive and negative tests was granted permission to participate under close contact arrangements.
However, in a tournament turnaround, the duo were given a "late reprieve" on Sunday, allowing them to continue in the Olympic competition.
The duo played Switzerland on Sunday evening beating the European nation by a score of 9-6. The win is their and Australia's first ever win at an Olympic Games.
Theyâ€™ve done it!!!— AUS Olympic Team (@AUSOlympicTeam) February 6, 2022
Australiaâ€™s first Olympic curling win 👏👏👏#ChasingWinter pic.twitter.com/oa3S1W96BL
Gill-Hewitt then pulled off their best win ever, beating Canada's John Morris and Rachel Homan. It will be a big match for both nations, as Morris had coached the pair when they first relocated to Canmore, Alberta, Canada last September.
Morris is also the reigning Olympic champion, having won Gold in Pyeongchang with former partner Kaitlyn Lawes.
In a dramatic match, that saw the Australians pull ahead 7-0 after four ends, only to have Canada crawl back to 8-8 forcing a ninth end. Gill-Hewitt ultimately bested their former coach for a 10-8 win.
They did it!!— AUS Olympic Team (@AUSOlympicTeam) February 6, 2022
Australiaâ€™s second curling win over Canada!!
🇦🇺 10 - 🇨🇦 8 #ChasingWinter
While that match will mark the end of their Beijing games, with Australia currently in tenth position and outside a semi-finals place, the results should not overshadow Gill-Hewitt's accomplishment at the Beijing Games and in Australian curling.
Not only did the Aussie duo qualify four years earlier than their target, but at the ages of 27(Hewitt) and 22 (Gill) they are still extremely young and relatively inexperienced in this sport. There is a lot of curling ahead of them, including one would hope future Olympic Games.
Going forward, as the only Australian curling team to participate in an Olympic Games, what Gill and Hewitt want is that their legacy be marked by a dedicated curling ring in Australia.
More Australian Olympic news can be found on the AOC's website.