By Greg Bates | March 16, 2017, 10:59 a.m. (ET)
(L-R) Nina Roth, Tabitha Peterson, Aileen Geving and Becca Hamilton will compete at the World Women's Curling Championship beginning March 18 in Beijing.

 

Nina Roth and Becca Hamilton have been making the four-hour drive from McFarland, Wisconsin, to Blaine, Minnesota, a little more frequently lately.

After all, training sessions with their Minnesota-based teammates Tabitha Peterson and Aileen Geving have become all the more important after the rink won the Americas Challenge in January to qualify for the CPT World Women’s Curling Championships, which takes place March 18-26 in Beijing.

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It might be a long trek, but Team Roth is hoping the extra preparation will pay dividends on the big stage.

The women have only been curling together since last June after being selected to team up through USA Curling’s High Performance Program, but they have all curled in various combinations over the years, so there is plenty of familiarity. Roth and Hamilton grew up in the same small town and are both members of the Madison Curling Club. Peterson lives in St. Paul, while Geving’s hometown is Duluth, Minnesota.

“Even though we’re a first-year team technically, we have very high expectations for our performance,” said Roth, the team’s skip. “We have had high expectations all year, and we’ll continue to have high expectations when we get to worlds.”

Roth noted the team is a good mix of personalities. Each knows their role, communicates very well and can execute. That all starts with throwing one rock at a time and not looking too far ahead.

“We’re really good at focusing at the shot at hand and doing what we need to do to make that shot, and then we take it from there,” said Hamilton, who is the team’s lead.

Added Roth: “We’ve been working all season to get good at developing short-term goals, whether it’s a goal for that end or a goal for the next three games. We pick out what our goal is, and then we’re really good at being able to communicate and work together to find a way to achieve that little goal.”

Since they’ve only been curling together for nine months, there is still plenty the team can improve on. Just getting in as many games as they can will only help the group’s camaraderie.

“This will be a great test with the world championships,” Roth said. “We’ve played a lot of these teams this year already, but to play them on the world stage on championship-quality ice under the lights of the arena, etc., is just going to be an amazing experience for all of us to do it together. This will help prep us for the Olympic Trials and hopefully for the Olympics.”

The goal is to make the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, which would be a first for the team members. As a collective unit, though, the four curlers have competed at worlds six times.

Roth competed in the 2010 world championships as the vice for Team Erika Brown, helping bring home a fifth-place finish. Hamilton and Geving made it to worlds in 2015 and placed 10th, with Geving as the skip. Meanwhile, this will be Peterson’s fourth trip to worlds, after finishing fifth in 2012 and sixth in ’14 and ’16.

“I just know what to expect and I know the ice,” Hamilton said. “I know how to throw the rock on championship ice. I know what it’s like to walk into an arena with fans all over.”

Team Roth also has an experienced and reliable coach in Ann Swisshelm, who competed in five world championships, plus two Olympics, during her heyday. Swisshelm was a member of the squad that captured the first and only gold for the United States at the event in 2003.

“She brings a lot of passion and insight to the game,” Hamilton said. “She always has something new we can work on. Having her on the ice and her strategy and different inputs she gives us is unreal right now. Total advantage.”

Team Roth heads into worlds with pressure mounting for the United States to earn a spot at the PyeongChang Games. Seven teams qualify for Games through their results at the past two world championships, and the United States sits in sixth place after finishing sixth in the 2016 worlds. South Korea, which is currently in seventh place, automatically qualifies as the host nation. Two additional nations will qualify at the final qualification event in December 2017.

“You look at those numbers and they don’t really faze us,” Roth said. “Like I said before, we have very high expectations and we know our potential. The pressure that we are feeling is pressure that we’ve put on ourselves because we know what we can do.”

What are the women hoping to accomplish at worlds?

“Medal,” Hamilton said. “Have to bring it home for the U.S. It’s been a while since the women have brought home a medal, so it would be nice to put us on the board and show that we’re going to be a good competitor at the Olympics next year.”

Roth pointed out that the United States medaled in curling last year at worlds in junior men’s and women’s, men’s and mixed doubles. The American women have only medaled six times in the 38 years of the world championship event. The last time was a silver in 2006.

“I think it’s time that the women get a medal,” Roth said.

Greg Bates is a freelance writer based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He has been a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org since 2010 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.