Being the best: sibling rivalries motivate Pacific-Asia’s curlers

Carlee, Hugh and Matthew Millikin at the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships 2019 - © WCF / Tom Rowland

When looking on the ice at the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships 2019 in Shenzhen, China, you may see one thing in common – the same names on the backs of several athletes.

Being the children of Hugh Millikin, vice-president of the World Curling Federation and Australia’s most successful curler to date, Carlee Millikin, lead for the Australian women’s team and Matthew Millikin, alternate for the men’s team, were destined to be born with curling shoes on their feet.

Carlee and Matthew Millikin

Carlee Millikin at the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships 2019 – © WCF / Tom Rowland

“It actually took a while for Dad to convince us to curl,” admitted Carlee. Now we really love it and to be able to do it as a family, I think it’s special.”

The Australian siblings are excited to play at the same event, which is Matthew’s first time being on the international arena. Matthew competed as lead in his first international game against Qatar, and had a great performance, winning by 10-3.

Abdulrahman and Salem Ali

Salem Ali at the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships 2019 – © WCF / Tom Rowland

However, there is a set of brothers, lead Abdulrahman Ali and second Salem Ali, from Qatar, where curling is not so well known.

“A friend of mine told me there’s a new sport in Qatar,” said Abdulrahman. “So we went to try it and both fell in love with curling.” Now, curling has been one of the only topics in the Qatar brothers’ conversations.

“Most of the time we are talking about curling. Even when we are off the ice, we watch curling videos together to learn from the mistakes we made and try to find out what’s good about other teams,” said Abdulrahman.

They both credit their confidence to great communication. “I don’t think I get too nervous when my brother is making a shot because I’m always confident in him,” said Salem. “I can always help him with his shot by telling him about the ice conditions and then do my ice sweeping.”

Ki Bok and Ki Jeong Lee

Ki Bok Lee at the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships 2019 – © WCF / Tom Rowland

The Korean twins, lead Ki Bok Lee and third Ki Jeong Lee, got involved in curling at the age of 14, when their physical education teacher let them try curling and join the team in their middle school.

“I feel very comfortable to curl with my brother on the same team,” said Ki Bok, “I think he makes me enjoy curling more.” The Korean twin brothers both have strong faith in each other, but for them curling is not only about working together to beat other teams but more about the competition between themselves.

“Apart from being my brother and teammate, Ki Bok is also my rival. Of course, I believe in him but when he makes a nice shot, I definitely want to make a better one myself,” joked Ki Jeong.

“We would blame each other when one of us fails to make a shot,” he added with laughter. “we are trying to avoid it but that’s part of what keeps us trying to do our best and what motivates us to play at the higher level.”

Chiaki and Yuta Matsumura

Chiaki Matsumura at the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships 2019 – © WCF / Tom Rowland

Similarly, there have been more curling rivalries since childhood among the Japanese siblings, Chiaki Matsumura, third for Japan women’s team and Yuta Matsumura, who skips the men’s team.

“I love watching her play. I always believe in her but when she makes a good shot, I’ll want to do it better than her,” Yuta explained. But things get slightly trickier for the Matsumura siblings to spend a lot of time together, with them now living in different places and both of their teams playing on different schedules.

“We compete in the same events quite often in Japan so we can see each other when we both get a break, and that’s when we will talk about curling.” When they are on different schedules, they follow each other’s games like a fan. For Chiaki, whose brother is throwing the last stones, it’s fun but also nerve wracking to watch Yuta’s games. “Usually in the early ends of the game I enjoy watching it a lot, but if it’s a big game and comes down to the final shot he is going to make, I would get so nervous that I just keep praying everything goes well for him,” said Chiaki.

Although there are many similar family dynamics on the ice, their goals are different. While the Millikin siblings are aiming at representing Australia at the 2026 Olympics, the Japanese brother and sister are looking forward to heading into the Worlds as well as the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.

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Shenzhen, China

8 November 2019