Team of the Year, Athletes of the Year announced

By Terry L. Davis | Aug. 08, 2017, 2:10 p.m. (ET)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Aug. 8, 2017

Stopera rink honored as 2017 Team of the Year; Hamilton siblings earn top athlete awards

(STEVENS POINT, Wis.) – With a silver-medal finish at the 2017 World Junior Curling Championships, USA Curling is proud to announce that the Andrew Stopera rink has been named the 2017 Team of the Year. Siblings Matt Hamilton and Becca Hamilton (both of McFarland, Wis.) have been named Male and Female Athlete of the Year, respectively.

Stopera (Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.) and teammates Luc Violette (Lake Stevens, Wash.), Ben Richardson (Issaquah, Wash.), Graem Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.), and Nick Connolly (Seattle) had a very successful outing in the team’s first appearance together at the World Juniors in reaching the podium. In addition, Stopera, was the top-ranked skip at the competition.

“We are absolutely honored that we were chosen to be Team of the Year. It’s really an incredible feeling to be recognized for some of our accomplishments from the past season, our first together as a team,” said Stopera, 19, a student at Northwestern University. “We’ve worked so hard to reach our goals over the last year so to be recognized for all we’ve put in is great. I feel grateful to be a part of this group of guys: Luc, Ben, Graem, Nick, Mark, and I really could not ask more from them as teammates, competitors, and friends. We’ll definitely enjoy this distinction and we are excited to get back on the ice this upcoming season to see what the future holds.”

 

Stopera, Violette, Richardson, and Fenson competed together all season, with Connolly, the 2017 Junior Nationals runner-up, joining the team for the World Juniors in South Korea. In addition to winning the 2017 Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D., the Stopera rink had a successful Junior Curling Tour season, securing the overall title at the Abbotsford (B.C.) Junior Cashspiel in December and making several other playoff appearances at events throughout the season. The team went 7-4 at the World Juniors and 7-2 at the Junior Nationals and is coached by Mark Lazar (Toledo, Ohio).

“It is great to see the team get recognized for their efforts last year. The team really committed themselves last year – both on and off the ice – to performing at their absolute best,” Lazar said. “Overall, the team could not have achieved this kind of success if it wasn’t for the support of the families, as well the support from both the USCA and the High Performance Program. Looking back, for a first-year team and coach to have this kind of success is remarkable.”

Becca Hamilton, 27, was a member of two teams that helped secure 2018 Olympic berths. At the 2017 World Women’s Championship, Hamilton was a member of the U.S. team skipped by Nina Roth that finished fifth to qualify the U.S. women for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. In March Hamilton and her brother, Matt Hamilton, won the 2017 USA Curling Mixed Doubles National Championship and went on to secure the U.S. a mixed doubles berth with their 10th place finish at the World Mixed Doubles Championship.

“After a whirlwind of a season, this is just the icing on the cake. Representing the U.S. is a surreal experience, and getting to do it twice this year was awesome,” said Becca Hamilton, a two-time U.S. junior champion and 2014 women’s national champion. “However, none of this would have been possible without my awesome teammates, so a shout-out to Nina, Tab, Aileen, and my brother Matt! You guys make the crazy curling season a ton of fun and I can’t thank you all enough.” This is the first time Becca Hamilton has earned the Athlete of the Year Award.

Matt Hamilton, 28, won two national titles this season in being named USA Curling’s Male Athlete of the Year. Hamilton, who plays in the second position for the John Shuster rink, won the 2017 USA Curling Men’s National Championship title in February by going undefeated and the 2017 USA Curling Mixed Doubles National Championship in March with a marathon finish after surviving several rounds of tiebreaker games on the way to winning the gold-medal game. The U.S. men finished fourth at the 2017 Ford World Men’s Curling Championship to qualify the U.S. for the 2018 Olympic Games. Matt was previously honored as a member of USA Curling’s Team of the Year Award in 2016 and 2008 after winning the bronze medal at the World Men’s Championship and gold medal at the World Junior Championships.

“It is an absolute honor to be named Athlete of the Year. It’s really reaffirming that all the time and effort put in is being recognized. Is was a surreal experience winning two national championships in the same season, and getting to attend both worlds and rep the USA is always a treat and a pleasure,” said Hamilton, a two-time U.S. men’s and junior men’s champion, who recently got married and works as a technician at Spectrum Brands. “I want to thank my teammates, John Shuster, Tyler George, John Landsteiner, and Joe polo for always being supportive and pushing me. I would also like to thank Coach Phill Drobnick for the time and effort he has put in recently and in past years. I couldn't have accomplished this without my parents Scott and Cathy, or my lovely wife. Their support and love is unparalleled. Last, but not least, I want to thank my sister for being a great practice partner, teammate, and sibling!”

Becca and Matt are both qualified to compete in the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in November as well as the 2018 U.S. Olympic Mixed Doubles Team Trials in December.

The awards were determined by USA Curling’s Athlete/Curler Recognition Committee. The 2017 winners also will be nominated to the United States Olympic Committee for its annual athlete and team awards.

Past recipients of the award can be viewed here: http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Curling/For-Athletes/Awards.

USA Curling is sponsored by AtomOS, Nike, Brooms Up Curling Supplies, CryoMAX 8-Hour Cold Pack, Sitrin, The RAM Restaurant & Brewery, BalancePlus, and Brakebush, and is partnered with Thorne Research, Laurie Artiss Ltd. – The Pin People, United Airlines, 12th End Sports Network, and CurlingZone.

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For more information: Terry Davis, Director of Communications, terry.davis@usacurl.org, 608-338-9900 (mobile) or 715-344-1199, Ext. 202 (office).