U.S. Curling's All-Star Team?

By Greg Bates | Feb. 14, 2013, 6 p.m. (ET)
United States skip Debbie McCormick (C) releases the stone during the women's curling round robin game between Japan and the United States at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games on Feb. 16, 2010.

Skip Debbie McCormick delivers as Nicole Joraanstad
and Natalie Nicholson sweep during the women's curling round
robin game against Denmark at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic
Winter Games.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A sixth-place finish at the USA Curling National Championships last year might have been the best thing that could have happened to Team Brown.

It was a wake-up call for Erika Brown and her teammates, Debbie McCormick, Ann Swisshelm and Jessica Schultz, who together have a combined six appearances in the Olympic Winter Games.

Since the uncharacteristic showing at the 2012 U.S. championships, the worst finish for any of the four members in their careers at nationals, the team became re-energized and extremely focused. It also made them more mentally tough, Swisshelm said. Now the team’s talent is finally starting to shine through.

“In hindsight it was probably a good thing. It was disappointing, but it’s still part of our journey and learning and it was our first year together,” said McCormick, who is the team’s vice skip and a three-time Olympian in 1998, 2002 and 2010. “Just because you’re great on paper doesn’t mean you’re going to be great right away. You still have to work on things, communication and team systems and so it’s really helped us work on those things.”

Team Brown — which is competing this week in the 2013 USA Curling National Championships presented by Brooms Up Curling Supplies in Green Bay, Wis. — has started this season strong, winning three events on the world curling tour.

The winning women’s team at nationals this week advances to the 2013 Women’s World Championships in March in Latvia and also qualifies for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in November in Fargo, N.D. The second-place team at nationals also qualifies for the Trials.

The final four teams are skipped by Brown, Courtney George, Allison Pottinger and Alexandra Carlson.

On Friday, Universal Sports will air both the women’s bronze-medal game and the men’s playoff games live at 3 p.m. ET. On Saturday, the championship finals will be staged. NBC Sports Network will air the women’s gold-medal match at 10 a.m. ET followed by the men’s gold-medal final at 4 p.m. ET.

Making the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team Trials is very important but the end goal is qualifying for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, which begin less than a year from now.

Team Brown formed last season after all four of the members had competed against one another for so many years. Brown and McCormick actually played together in the late 1980s and early ’90s, winning U.S. junior championships from 1991-94. McCormick also was an alternate for Schultz’s team that went to the world championships in 2012.The quartet united to become an all-star team of Olympians, having amassed a total of 19 national championships in their illustrious careers. However, the team members don’t consider themselves any different or better than the other curling teams they compete against.

Nicole Joraanstad (L) and Natalie Nicholson (R) sweep the ice for
a release by skip Debbie McCormick.

“I think the top teams out here are all made up of people who have been to the Olympics, been to the world championships, so I don’t put us in some sort of special category than that, but I think the dynamic of this team is pretty special,” said Brown, the team’s skip who competed in the Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games and also the ’88 Winter Games when curling was just a demonstration sport.
The team members really enjoy playing together since they all offer a wealth of experience and are like-minded athletes.
“It is so much fun to play on a team where you are not carrying someone around the ice,” said Swisshelm, the team’s first thrower, who is competing in her 19th consecutive national championships this week. “It is such a pleasure that we get to do our jobs, share the information and achieve results.”
Said McCormick: “I think we have a lot of laughs, and I think because of our experience, we can have those fun moments as well. I enjoy curling with these girls because it’s fun. If it wasn’t fun, I probably wouldn’t be on this team.”
The women have so much fun because they are confident in their abilities. They know their job and they are never second-guessed by a teammate.
“Everyone fits great into their roles,” Brown said. “The front-enders are great sweepers; the shot they’re throwing, they’re the best there is at them, and Deb can do anything. … There’s nothing I would change about the lineup, the people, about anything.”
According to Schultz, who competed in the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games and, at 28, is the youngest member on the team, all four of the members have an equal say with anything team related.
It’s a long road with the Winter Games in Sochi less than one year out, but Team Erika Brown is expecting to be there and expecting to do well.
“We expect a lot out of each other because we know we can be that great,” McCormick said. “We expect it and we want to do our job to the best of our ability.”

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Greg Bates is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.