Batoyun Uranchimeg competes in a preliminary round robin match against Team Great Britain at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 5, 2022 in Beijing.
After a pair of losses on the opening day of round-robin play, the U.S. wheelchair curling team has its work cut out for it at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
Team USA opened the Paralympics with a 9-3 loss Saturday to Slovakia at the National Aquatics Centre, also known as the “Ice Cube.” Slovakia slid out to a 6-0 lead after the second end and never looked back.
Matthew Thums, the U.S. skip from Weston, Wisconsin, making his Paralympic debut, was clearly disappointed with the result.
“We struggled in the first half, had to clean up some shot lines and some strategy calls,” Thums said. “It was good to go out there and get the first one out of the way, regroup, come back, and play better tonight (against Great Britain).”
The U.S. did play better in its second game against Great Britain, taking a 3-0 lead after the second end. Team GB tied it in the third end before the Americans scored a pair of points to go up 5-3 after four.
In a game marked by changing ice conditions, it was all Great Britain from that point. The Brits tied the game in the fifth end and then outscored the Americans 5-1 over the final two ends to win, 10-6.
Great Britain topped the U.S. in draw percentage, 66-54, though the Americans were more accurate in takeouts with a 68-51 advantage.
Thums said he enjoyed being back at this venue, where the Americans had competed in the world championships last October, when he helped the U.S. to the semifinals against China, losing to the eventual world champion and defending Paralympic gold medalist.
“Great to be back and that the Paralympics are here,” Thums said. “We just want to make the shots that we need to, come back later, and do a better job.”
Despite being from different parts of the country, the American team stays close, according to Thums, who played with Steve Emt of Hebron, Connecticut, Dave Samsa of Suamico, Wisconsin, and Oyuna Uranchimeg of Burnsville, Minnesota. Pam Wilson of Westminster, Colorado, was the alternate.
“We’re just like a family,” Thums said. “We do a Zoom call every week, do some offline strategy. We’re not really apart that often. At least once a month for three or four days, we’re together.
“We all get along. It’s difficult, a lot of travel. Two or three people have to travel on planes every time. But when we get together, it’s like we were never apart for very long.”
The close-knit American team will look to rebound and enter the win column against Estonia on Sunday.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Beijing 2022? Visit TeamUSA.org/Beijing-2022-Paralympic-Games to view the competition schedule, medal table and results.