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Curling

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PREVIEW

The U.S. men’s and women’s curling teams entered the 2012-13 season thirsty for success and looking to both reach the podium at the world championships and earn a chance to compete at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

The women’s team was ranked fifth in the qualifying standings at the end of 2012, and is poised to earn an Olympic berth with a good showing at the 2013 Women’s World Championship in Riga, Latvia. The men’s team will need a top-eight finish at the 2013 Men’s World Championship in Victoria, British Columbia, to seal a direct berth; otherwise the U.S. men will be relegated to qualifying at the WCF Olympic Qualifying Event in December.

The U.S. women will be looking to make their first world championship podium appearance since 2006, while the men are hoping to return to the medal stand for the first time since 2007. The teams vying for berths to the Sochi Games will be determined at the 2013 USA Curling National Championships in February in Green Bay, Wis.

The curling competition for the Sochi Games will feature 10 men’s and 10 women’s teams. The teams will play in a nine-game round robin tournament, followed by a playoff format for the semifinal and medal rounds.

The competition will be contested at the 3,000-seat Ice Cube Curling Center, located in the Coastal Cluster within the Olympic Park.

The U.S. curling team is looking to win its first Olympic medal since 2006, when Pete Fenson’s team captured the bronze – the first medal for Team USA in program history. Fenson’s team has already qualified for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and is considered a favorite to represent Team USA in Sochi.

STORYLINES

  • After underperforming at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, USA Curling’s high performance program has made major strides. The hiring of the organization’s first high performance director in 2011, coupled with the development of a national coaching program, the U.S. has its sights set on medaling at international competitions this year.
  • Curling continues to experience growth across the United States, due largely in part to increased television exposure. Curling clubs are now located in 42 U.S. states, with membership increasing 47 percent between 2002 and 2011. The growth of the sport and the association’s emphasis on coaching, instruction and youth programs will help fuel a stronger pipeline of future Olympians.
  • Team Erika Brown is an all-star team featuring four Olympians who are off to a great start this season. Brown, a 1998 Olympian, leads the team that features three-time Olympian Debbie McCormick (1998, 2002, 2010), 2006 Olympian Jessica Schultz and 2002 Olympian Ann Swisshelm. The quartet will look to return to the Olympic Games in 2014, and if successful, should not be overlooked as a medal contender. The team had won three events on the world curling tour by the end of 2012, and is a pre-season favorite to win the 2013 national title.
  • Curling has progressed from an Olympic television trend in 2002 to a well-known sport in 2012. The increased public awareness has helped generate unique opportunities for the sport, including a spot in the 2012 Super Bowl Village, as well as a strong relationship with the San Francisco 49ers Foundation and star tight end Vernon Davis, who was the honorary captain of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Men’s Curling Team. USA Curling was also selected to host the 2014 Continental Cup in Las Vegas, which marked the first international event on U.S. soil.

ATHLETES TO WATCH

Erika Brown
Brown was just 15 years old when she made the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team when curling was still a demonstration sport. Now, the 39-year-old is leading a team of seasoned Olympic veterans and is on target to earn a berth in the upcoming U.S. Olympic Team Trials. A physician’s assistant and mother of two boys, Brown comes from a family of stellar curlers. Her brother, Craig Brown, has won two national titles and is a 2014 Olympic hopeful, while her father, Steve Brown, is a legendary curler with multiple national titles. Steve Brown now leads the U.S. Paralympic wheelchair curling program, and is the proud owner of Steve’s Curling Supplies, which is the most recognizable curling equipment supplier in the country.

Pete Fenson
Fenson earned the U.S. its first and only Olympic medal in curling, winning bronze at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. The venerable skip is at the top of his game, winning national titles in 2010 and 2011, and finishing second in 2012. The 43-year-old owner of a pizza parlor has been Team USA’s most consistent athlete at the skip position in the past decade and is poised to earn his second Olympic berth.

Chris Plys
The alternate and media darling of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team, Plys lost  his father to brain cancer in 2011, but has shined as a leader on and off the ice with his new team. To commemorate his father, Plys co-founded Project Joy, which helps feed the hungry in Duluth, Minn. An aspiring musician, Plys cut his first CD in 2010 after the Vancouver Games.

Cassie Potter
Potter (née Johnson) was just 24 years old when she led the U.S. women’s team at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games after a stellar junior career, which included the United States’ only women’s world junior gold medal. Since then, Potter graduated from college, became a wife and is now preparing to welcome her first child in 2013. The 31-year-old finished second at last year’s nationals and continues to show steady improvement in her game calling and overall curling skills.

Allison Pottinger
Pottinger moved up to the skip position after the Vancouver Games with Debbie McCormick’s departure from the team. She is the most decorated U.S. curler in history with 10 national titles to her credit. The 39-year-old mother of two continues to blend her career as a marketing research analyst at General Mills with high-performance training and competition.

John Shuster
The skip of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team and member of the 2006 U.S. Olympic bronze medal-winning team, Shuster is off to strong start in 2012-13 and will compete for a chance to return to the medal podium in Sochi. His squad features a young crop of Minnesota natives that will undoubtedly bring a lot of energy as they seek an Olympic berth at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in November.

QUALIFICATION

Nations earn berths to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games based on total points accumulated at the 2012 and 2013 World Championships. At the conclusion of the 2013 event in April, the top-eight countries (men’s and women’s) earn an automatic qualifying spot to the Olympic Games. Two additional teams (men’s and women’s) will get a second chance to earn an Olympic berth at the WCF Olympic Qualifying Event in December, bringing the total field to 10 men’s and 10 women’s teams for the Sochi Games.

SELECTION

The 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling will take place Nov. 10-17 in Fargo, N.D. Four women’s teams and up to five men’s teams will compete for a spot on the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team. The final slate of hopefuls will be announced by May 2013.

KEY DATES


Feb. 9-16 USA Curling National Championships Green Bay, Wis.
March 16-24 Women’s World Championship Riga, Latvia
March 30-April 7 Men’s World Championship Victoria, British Columbia
Nov. 10-17 U.S. Olympic Team Trials Fargo, N.D.
Dec. 10-13 Olympic Qualifying Event TBD
Jan. 16-19 Continental Cup Las Vegas, Nev.