Jamie Sinclair’s Olympic dream was launched at a very young age.
In a very comfortable place.
Her family’s living room.
“I remember sitting on the couch and watching Olympic curling on TV with my dad,” she said. “He looked over at me and said, ‘One day, I’m going to be sitting here watching you do that.’”
That day may arrive soon.
The 24-year-old Sinclair is one of the top young American hopefuls who will compete in the USA Curling National Championships, set for Feb. 11-18 at Xfinity Arena in Everett, Washington.
“I’m very excited about this event,” she said. “It seems like the season just flew by. I can’t wait to compete at nationals. It’s going to be a great competition.”
Ten men’s teams and eight women’s teams will compete for national titles and a chance to represent the United States at the world championships. The women’s worlds are next month in Beijing, and the men’s worlds are set for April in Edmonton, Alberta. Those events are important because they combine with last year’s world championships to determine which countries earn berths at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, which begin in just under a year in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Teams at the U.S. championships will compete in a full round-robin format with the top four men’s teams and top three women’s teams advancing to a playoff.
Sinclair is the skip, or captain, of a five-person squad that currently sits in second place in the women’s rankings behind Team Nina Roth. Sinclair’s team also includes Alex Carlson, Vicky Persinger, Monica Walker and Tara Peterson.
They’ll face competition from the likes of two-time Olympian Jessica Schultz, who will make her nationals debut as a skip, as well as Olympian Cassie Potter.
Veteran John Shuster is the captain of a top men’s team that currently sits third in the points standings. Shuster, a three-time U.S. Olympian, is seeking to win this event for the sixth time. The 34-year-old who trains in Duluth, Minnesota, is one of the biggest names in American curling, having won an Olympic bronze medal in 2006 and also led his team to a bronze medal at the 2016 world championships.
But Team Shuster — which includes Tyler George, Matt Hamilton, John Landsteiner and Joe Polo — will face plenty of competition. Team Heath McCormick enters nationals as the men’s points leader, while Olympians Craig Brown and Pete Fenson are also skipping teams. Last year’s winning skip Brady Clark, meanwhile, is looking to defend his national title in his home state. Shuster said much of the key for his team at nationals is staying in the moment.
“You can’t get all caught up in looking at the standings too much and worrying about that,” he said. “It’s a long week, and you just have to take it game by game. You have to focus on getting through the round robin and making the playoffs. You can’t look too far ahead.”
Sinclair, who has dual citizenship, is aiming to win her first U.S. championship. Her parents were in the military and she was born in Anchorage, Alaska, where they were living at the time. However, she grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, and she won a pair of national curling titles in that country.
Sinclair began competing for Team USA three years ago, and she now trains at the U.S. national training center in Blaine, Minnesota.
She said she developed a love affair with the sport from her father, Graham, who still competes in curling on the senior level in Canada.
“What I love about the sport is the competitive side of it,” Jamie said. “I like having the pressure when everything is on the line.”
The next step in Sinclair’s Olympic quest comes this weekend at nationals.
“Obviously, the Olympics is the ultimate goal,” Sinclair said. “Everything we do is with that in mind. Winning nationals would be a good steppingstone for our team.
“Since we are ranked second, the pressure is not so much on us. It’s a good event to be relaxed and just play our game. We just need to have fun and trust that all of our hard work will pay off.”
If it does, her father’s long-ago prediction may finally become a reality.
“Making the Olympics, that would mean absolutely everything,” Jamie Sinclair said. “It would mean my childhood dreams were coming true.”