Q&A with David Wise

Image Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC Sports

Reno's David Wise made history in 2014 by becoming the inaugural Olympic gold medalist in men's freeski halfpipe. Now a father of two, he remains a strong contender for an Olympic team berth again in 2018.

Earlier this year, we sent Wise a list of questions. Here's what he had to say.

What's your earliest memory of skiing?
I started skiing so young that I don't even remember the beginning. My earlier memory of skiing as a kid is of a time when I tried to hit a jump and crashed and got snow all down my back. Cold and pain are good memory triggers. I always wanted to be a professional athlete as a kid, it wasn't always skiing that I focused on. I think the combination of speed, airtime, and the fact that it was an individual sport is what drew me to skiing away from football and baseball.

What's your earliest memory of watching the Olympics, and did you imagine yourself competing there one day?
I remember watching the summer and winter Olympics from as early of an age as I have. We would sit down and watch as a family, and I dreamed of competing for the United States as a kid. However, when I switched from moguls to halfpipe, it didn't seem like pipe was going to be an Olympic event, so I had to give up that Olympic dream. To see that dream come full circle and be a part of the first Olympics ever for the sport was an amazing experience.

Best part of living in the Athletes’ Village during the Olympics?
The best part of the Olympics in general is the camaraderie between sports. At the Olympics you are thrown in with sports that you would never normally spend time around, but they are part of Team USA as well. It is really cool to meet people and have someone to root for that you know personally in each sport.

Where do you keep your Olympic medal?
It has a secured case at my house, but it spends a lot of time traveling with me as well. One of the responsibilities I think we have as Olympic champions is sharing the experience with the country that enabled us to get there and those who may someday seek the same goal.

What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?
A lot of people are surprised that skiing is my only job, and that it takes as much or more of my time in the offseason as it does in the season. Whenever I tell people that I am a skier, they inevitably ask me how I fill my time in the offseason, like I can only train for skiing by skiing. The reality is that offseason training and strength building is as important as or more important than on-snow training. If you aren't in the absolute best condition you can be in to start the season, the travel and competition grind will break you up into a million pieces. I can't do justice to how lucky I feel to be able to do this as a job, but it takes serious dedication just like anything else worth doing.

How do you work to achieve your daily goals?
Set small goals and large ones. It is important to have dreams, but it is equally important to have stepping stones to get you there.

Have you ever been seriously injured?
I have had a dislocated hip and two left ACL reconstructions. My injuries taught me to be a well-rounded human, as well as a well-rounded athlete. The possibility of career-ending injury looms over us constantly in this sport, and if that were to happen, and you haven't spent the time to foster who you are as a person, who are you going to be without the sport?

What’s something about freeskiing that people don't normally see?
Something cool about our sport is that it is about style just as much as it is about progression or technicality. A rider can gain the respect of the sport just by being unique and original and it doesn't always have to do with doing the most technical or dangerous tricks.

What’s the hardest part of the sport?
The hardest part of the sport is the fine line we walk between what we call the sweet spot and the deck. The best place to land on the halfpipe is the very highest point before the coping, but if you mess up your takeoff at all, it is only a few inches to a potentially catastrophic landing on the deck.

Who are your biggest rivals, and is it friendly or contentious?
Torin Yater-Wallace, Kevin Rolland, Mike Riddle. It's both friendly and contentious, that's what competition is. I'm excited when they ski well and take the sport to another level, but I sure do want to beat them!

Do you have a lucky charm that you can’t train or compete without?
I always wear my lucky American flag boxers.

Do you have another job aside from skiing?
I am a full-time athlete and part-time professional bowhunter. I think balance is the most challenging, and difficult, thing to attain in life and bowhunting is a great way for me to get out into the quiet mountains, away from all the stresses and pressures, and remember who I am.

What athlete, in any sport, has been your greatest source of inspiration?
Michael Jordan. "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Are you from a military family?
Yes, my sister [Christy] is a captain in the U.S. Air Force, a pilot and an amputee. My sister is one of the most influential people in my life and when she joined the service, it took my respect for the armed forces to the next level. I truly believe that if I weren't an athlete, I would be glad to give a few years of my life to the service of our country the way that my sister has.

How has being a parent affected you?
My kids [Nayeli and Malachi] are an important part of keeping me grounded as an athlete. It is easy to get caught up in what you are doing and what is happening in the sport and lose perspective, but at the end of the day, we professional athletes are grownups playing games for a living. It is more important to me to be the best husband and father that I can be, than to win any title or championship. It takes the pressure off and I can just go out and enjoy my craft.

Do you have any hidden talents?
Unicycle riding, juggling, archery, balancing ski poles or broom sticks.

Any tattoos?
I have a bear with a butterfly on his nose on my shoulder. The bear is looking away from the mountains at the butterfly with a curious look on his face to signify that my wife (the butterfly) was the first one in my life to make me realize that there is more to life than mountains and skiing.

On my left bicep, I have a pinyon pine and the roots go down my forearm. The tree is relatively unassuming, but the roots are big and intricate showing that it isn't always the exterior look that shows the quality of the person. A tree is only as strong as its roots. It is a constant reminder to myself to stay humble and not try to outgrow my foundation and get blown over by the wind.

On the back of my left forearm, I have two owls to represent my two kids, Nayeli and Malachi. Ever since I was young, owls have been a theme in my life (the wise old owl) and I wanted something to represent my kids and how much they mean to me. The owls are actually perched on the back of the roots from the tree showing that my kids are one of the things I am rooted in and my roots are something that they can stand on.

Do you collect anything?
I collect heart-shaped rocks. My mom always collected them when I was a kid and I would make fun of her for it, but when I got married, I started seeing them every time I went out in the mountains on hikes and bike rides. I started bringing them back to my wife to show her that I was thinking about her even while I was away from her in the mountains. Now every time I bring one back for my wife, I have to remember to bring one back for each kid too. I once found a huge one (probably weighed 10 pounds) about ten miles into a backcountry hunt that was so perfect that I had to carry it out. It was my way of showing my wife that she was worth every effort. The collection is getting a bit out of hand.

What charities or organizations do you support?
One Leg Up on Life is a non-profit that my sisters started after Christy's injury. Their goal is to provide prosthetics to young amputees in the third world where prosthetics, especially quality ones, are not usually available. They have done a few trips to Haiti and have provided prosthetics to many individuals, some of whom even got to run again for the first time since the earthquake in 2010.

Favorite TV shows?
House of Cards, The Blacklist, Prison Break.

What's your music of choice while training?
Lecrae, Mumford and Sons, the Lumineers, Moondog Matinee.

To say that a gold medal was a goal would be to put pressure on myself for something that is beyond my control.


David Wise

Ever done karaoke?
Yes, and I always choose things like Jonny Cash or Bon Jovi that everyone knows so that everyone can sing with me and drown out my awful singing.

What will success look like for you in PyeongChang?
Making another Olympic team would be amazing, anything beyond that would be a bonus. Of course since the last Olympics wound down, I have been planning and strategizing about how to defend my title in Korea, but to say that a gold medal was a goal would be to put pressure on myself for something that is beyond my control. I hope to go out and progress my own skiing and do something that hasn't been done before and hopefully the judges like it!


Q&A with Jessica Kooreman

Image Credit: 2017 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

What's your family like?

My father, Rick Smith, drives a truck for Darling International and actually used to coach me in skating when I was young. My mom, Reina Smith, is a barber at Bob's Barber Shop in Taylor, Mich. I have a younger brother, Travis, who was a rock star dirt biker and is now in paramedic school in pursuit of becoming a fireman.

My hot husband [Mike Kooreman] was on the [short track] national team for 11 years, coached at the Olympics in Vancouver, then went on to coach the German national team, and is now the speed skating program manager at the Utah Olympic Oval. He will also be the team leader for long track speed skating at the Olympics in PyeongChang.

How influential were your parents in your athletic career and in what ways?

My father Rick grew up racing on roller skates and enjoyed the sport. When my parents had me at the age of twenty my dad changed his focus to helping me chase my dreams. He went to work for Darling International and started coaching. My mom also skated in her early teens. She wishes she had started earlier, and so by the age of one she put me on skates and I haven't looked back since. I have an internal drive that is fueled by the inspiration I get from my parents when I think about the sacrifice and work they have put into helping me become who I am today. 

Do you have another full-time job or business? How do you balance work and training?

I am a realtor in the state of Utah. I use my occupation to fund my athletic career and will continue with it after I have retired from speed skating. Having a balanced work and athletic career is almost impossible at times due to the training that is required in my sport. We spend 6-8 hours per day training, which leaves very little time for my occupation. I have to push myself in my work with the same enthusiasm and drive that I put towards speed skating. It takes a lot of self-discipline to manage both.

Do you have any pets?

I have a 10 year old puppy named Hurley Bean. She lights up my life. She is a Jack Russell terrier with plenty of energy that she uses to go for runs with me and at home she is a little snuggle bug.

In your hometown, what are your favorite spots to relax, eat out, etc? What are a few must-see/must-do locations?

When I make it home the entire family meets up at Mexican Fiesta and we always try to hit up a Tigers game. There are plenty of places in Detroit to check out but my favorite thing to do is catch up with family since I don't get to see them often enough. Top places to visit are Comerica Park and downtown Detroit in general. Greenfield Village is another cool place to visit.

What time do you wake up? How much, and when, do you sleep each day during training?

5:20 a.m. I try for eight hours if I'm lucky. Only at night. But, I do try to squeeze in a nap when I can if training is super hard that day.

How much time do you spend training each day?

6-8 hours.

What’s your typical training day/schedule?

5:20 a.m. wake up. At the rink by 6 a.m. Warm up and on the ice by 7 a.m. Finish ice at 9 and do dry land training until around 10 or 10:30 a.m. Depending on the day the afternoon can consist of another ice training session with dry land before and after, weights, biking, or running. 

How do you work to achieve your daily goals?

I remind myself of getting fourth place at the Olympics in Sochi. I put my head down and go to it.

What is your favorite workout or fitness trend?

Not going to lie...I like CrossFit.

What’s the most grueling work out you’ve ever done?

There are too many to count. One in particular that sticks out in my mind is running up Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was just as much mental as it was physical.

What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?

That it's not every four years. It is a lifetime of dedication, sacrifice, and hard work. People see us at the Olympics but every season we have a World Cup series and a World Championships.

Is there anything you do for training that’s out of the ordinary or experimental?

Not that I want anyone knowing about.

Have you ever been seriously injured? What did it take for you to come back from that injury?

In 2007 I broke my collarbone at the World Championships in Colombia. I still have a plate and seven screws holding it together. I also, to this day, train and compete with a 10cm tear in my left quad. I do therapy three times per week to keep it calm and build strength that allows me to continue.

If you are to indulge, what's your go-to snack or meal?

Mexican food is my go-to meal. Popcorn is my snack. Mint chocolate chip ice cream from Baskin Robins and tiramisu are my desserts.

What is your earliest memory of doing or seeing short track?

Since I started skating by age one I just always remember skating. I love being competitive and being able to see the world while representing my country.

What's your  earliest or favorite memory of watching the Olympics?

I remember watching the Olympics in 2002 and saw an opportunity for me to participate.

Was there a specific “breakthough” moment/competition when you finally realized you could compete in your sport at a high enough level to reach the Olympics?

There was never a moment. I always believed I could make it.

What's something cool, weird intense about your sport that people don't normally see? What’s the hardest part of your sport?

It's easy to lose sight of the fact that we have 16.5 inch razor blades on our feet. It is also crazy how the fastest person isn't always the one who wins. Short track takes a lot of strategy and finesse.

Who is your coach? How long have you been working together and what’s your relationship like?

Linlin Sun. I started working with her half way through this past season. I enjoy working with her because she is detail oriented and she brings a lot of energy to training sessions.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

My parents taught me to always give my best.

What's a big obstacle that you've overcome in your life?

Switching from inline speed skating to ice speed skating in pursuit of going to the Olympics. I had to go from being on top to starting from scratch, and the road wasn't easy.

What is your biggest fear when competing?

You can't race short track being afraid.

Who is your Olympic role model?

Serena Williams is a boss.

Within your sport, who has been your greatest influence and why?

My husband. He's my go-to and my support. I trust his knowledge in the sport to lead me in the right direction.

What advice would you give to a young child just starting out in short track?

Have patience and make sure that you enjoy what you are doing.

Are you a fan of any professional sports teams?

I’m a Red Wings fan.

Which Summer Olympic event would you like to try?

Gymnastics.

Who was the most influential in helping you achieve your dreams?

My parents sacrificed their dreams so that I could achieve mine. They taught me what it means to work hard and never give up.

How and where do you train over the summer?

I train year round in Salt Lake City. We train 11.5 months out of the year. In the summer, we do more base training like biking and extensive dry land training then in the season.

What is your favorite perk of being an elite Olympic athlete?

Being able to call myself an Olympian.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I'm good at selling houses.

Do you have any tattoos?

I have a butterfly on my middle/lower back.

What is your favorite animal?

I like chipmunks because they are so little and cute.

When you have time off, what would constitute a perfect day for you?

Sleep in. Breakfast and coffee in bed. Watch the Today Show and Live with Kelly. Hang out with my husband and dog.

How do you unwind after a competition?

I take a day off and don't think about training or skating.

Do you have any fears?

I have never wanted want to jump off a cliff or out of a plane. Haunted houses scare me too.

Do you like to travel?  What has been the most special place you have traveled to and why?

Yes. Switzerland is super pretty and the people are very friendly.

What's your personal motto?

You don't have to be great all of the time. You just have to be great at the right time.

What are some of your hobbies?

I love cooking dinner with my husband. I also enjoy hiking with my puppy and husband.

What are five of your favorite go-to songs to motivate you when training?

Rise- Katy Perry
Survival- Eminem
Do My Thing- Miley Cyrus
10 Feet Tall- Afrojack
Can't Stop the Feeling- Justin Timberlake

Do you have any celebrity crushes?

Adam Levine

Do you like kimchi or any other Korean foods?

Not kimchi, but I love bulgogi, gimbap, japchae, galbi, fried chicken, mindu, and Korean BBQ.

What will success look like for you in PyeongChang? What are your goals?

I hope to be on the podium with a gold medal around my neck. I would like to skate to the best of my ability.


Q&A with Heather Bergsma

Image Credit: 2017 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

How influential were your parents in your athletic career and in what ways?

My parents were very influential. They both grew up speed skating on quads and did artistic skating, so I grew up always at a skating rink.

Do you have any pets?

I have a 3-year-old Japanese Spitz named Yuki.

In your hometown of High Point, North Carolina, what are your favorite spots to relax, eat out, etc.?

Archdale Family Fitness
De Been Coffee
Pure Light Yoga
Full Moon Oyster Bar
Austin's Steakhouse

What time do you wake up? How much, and when, do you sleep each day during training?

Mostly 7:00 am. I feel my best when I get at least 9 hours of sleep so I try to go to bed by 10, and on days that I have the time I like to take a one hour nap after lunch.

How much time do you spend training each day?

It depends on the season. In the summer we put in a lot more hours than during the actual season.

What’s your typical training day/schedule?

Summer training we do a lot of jogging, weights, inlining and cycling. During the season we mostly cycle and skate on the ice.

How do you work to achieve your daily goals?

Push myself and give everything at training so I have no excuses.

What’s the most grueling work out you’ve ever done?

Biking the Stelvio for sure.

What is your earliest memory of doing or seeing skating?

The earliest memory that I love is my first inline meet in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I just remember it also felt like a family vacation because my family used to go there once a year together, and I got to compete for the first time with everyone there. I liked all the support and loved skating

What's your  earliest or favorite memory of watching the Olympics?

I remember watching the Salt Lake Games because there were so many inliners that had made the transition to ice and were competing. I thought it was amazing to see, but at the time I was still hoping inline would land a spot at the Olympics.

Was there a specific “breakthough” moment/competition when you finally realized you could compete in your sport at a high enough level to reach the Olympics?

After moving to Salt Lake in 2007 and qualifying that same year for the World Cup circuit I knew my goal was to be on the 2010 team.

What's something cool, weird intense about your sport that people don't normally see? What’s the hardest part of your sport?

To me the hardest part of speed skating is that so much comes from feeling.

Who is your coach? How long have you been working together and what’s your relationship like?

My coach is Jillert Anema. I have been working with him for 3 years now. It's a good combination, he is a great coach and if I ever am questioning anything he always gives a response of why it’s been done or how the planning is gonna work out.

Have you ever worked with a sports psychologist? If so, how did it help you?

I have and I think it was great for my mental training or toughness.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

You have nothing to lose only something to gain.

What advice would you give to a young child just starting out in speed skating?

Always have fun.

Who is your biggest rival? Is it friendly or contentious?

Brittany Bowe and it's definitely friendly. We bring out the best in each other.

What was the best part of living in the Athletes’ Village during the Games?

I love that there are plenty of places to be social, but also it allows you to kind of shut things out and focus if you need to as well.

How and where do you train over the summer?

I live in the Netherlands now so I train there.

What are your pre-competition rituals?

Skates sharpening and relax.

Do you have a lucky charm you can’t compete without?

If my Chapstick counts then yes.

Do you speak any languages other than English?

Dutch. I wouldn't say I'm fluent yet I understand a lot better than I speak. I took lessons over Skype.

Do you have any tattoos?

I have “hope” on my side written in a purple ribbon for my grandma that passed away with Hodgkin lymphoma, I have two fish on my feet for a Pisces, I have family written on my wrist, and I also have the letter H and J together on my ring finger.

What are your favorite TV shows?

Fixer Upper

Boer Zoekt Vrouw

What are your personal care indulgences?

I love massages even though I don’t have them so often.

Outside of training for your sport, what physical routine makes you feel your best?

Waking up and taking the dog out for a walk

Have you ever done karaoke?

I’m horrible.

What will success look like for you in PyeongChang? What are your goals?

I just want to be at my best.

Will you head home for the holidays prior to the Games? What do you most look forward to? If not, where will you celebrate and with whom?

I don't know my schedule exactly but I will not be in North Carolina with my family. I will either be training in Milwaukee or be in the Netherlands.


Team USA, Canada kick off women's hockey pre-Olympic contests

Image Credit: Getty Images

For the U.S. and Canadian women's hockey teams, this weekend marks the start of a series of pre-Olympic meetups which have, in the past, been like gasoline on a flame for the well-established rivalry.

The two teams will convene at center ice, at the very least, seven times as they prepare for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games. The odds also tip in the favor of an eighth meeting, which smart money says will happen in the finals at the Four Nations Cup this November in Wesley Chapel, Florida – the U.S. team's temporary Olympic centralization camp home away from home.

The series between the U.S. and Canada opens with a game on Sunday, October 22 at 2p ET at Quebec's Centre Videotron. Three days later, the two best women's hockey teams in the world will reassemble in Boston's Agganis Arena for the first pre-Olympic game of what USA Hockey has dubbed "The Time is Now" Tour at 7:30p ET. NHL Network will air both games live. Check back for futher broadcast information for future games.

The two rivals last clashed on ice in the final of the 2017 IIHF Women's World Championship back in April. The U.S. skated away victorious in overtime when U.S. forward Hilary Knight went top shelf on Canadian goalie, Shannon Szabados for the gold medal winner.

Pre-2018 PyeongChang Olympic USA vs. Canada Women's Hockey Schedule

Date/Time Location Arena
Oct 22, 2p ET Quebec City, Quebec Centre Videotron
Oct 25, 7:30p ET Boston, MA Agganis Arena
Dec 3, 4p ET St. Paul, MN Xcel Energy Center
Dec 5, 8p ET Winnepeg, Manitoba Bell MTS Place
Dec 15, 10p ET San Jose, CA SAP Center
Dec 17, 7p ET Edmonton, Alberta Rogers Place

2017 Four Nations Cup Schedule

Date/Time Game
Nov 7, 3:30p ET Canada vs. Sweden
Nov 7, 7p ET USA vs. Finland
Nov 8, 3:30p ET Finland vs. Sweden
Nov 8, 7p ET Canada vs. USA
Nov 10, 3p ET Canada vs. Finland
Nov 10, 3p ET Sweden vs. USA
Nov 12, 12p ET Third-place game
Nov 12, 3:30p ET Championship game

Q&A with Nina Roth

Image Credit: Jeffrey Swinger

What’s your family like?

My family is really close. My parents are Ken and Alane Spatola. I have a younger brother Nick Spatola. My husband Tony Roth and I have been married for 3 years.

How influential were your parents in your athletic career and in what ways?

My parents have been my biggest supporters. I started curling when I was 10 years old. My mother, who was my Girl Scout troop leader, took us to try curling at the McFarland Curling Club. I loved it and signed up for junior league immediately. My father curled recreationally when my brother and I were younger, but when I showed interest he started curling again as well. Eventually, my whole family was curling. If you went to the curling club, the Spatolas were there! My parents drove me all around the country and Canada to play in junior bonspiels, and since then they've flown all around the world to support me and my teams.

Do you have another full-time job or business? How do you balance work and training?

I've been lucky enough to pursue two great passions in my life: curling and nursing. I'm a full-time Registered Nurse in Madison, Wi. and work for Select Specialty Hospital. My supervisors are very supportive of my curling career. They let me arrange my work schedule around my curling events. I work 12-hour shifts, 3 days a week, which means early morning workouts and practices.

Do you have any pets?

I have two cats, Lea and Lady. They hate to see me leave and are always eager to snuggle when I get home.

In your hometown of Madison, Wis., what are your favorite spots to relax, eat out, etc?

My favorite spots in Madison are the Memorial Union in the summer. It’s a great place to relax and watch a band by Lake Mendota. You can take a jog around the state capitol. Angelo’s Pizza in McFarland has fantastic Italian food and visiting the Great Dane downtown for local beers, darts, and pool.

Also, going kayaking on Lake Monona. 

What time do you wake up? How much, and when, do you sleep each day during training?

I wake up at 4:30 am on work days, 8:00 am on my off days.        

I need my sleep, I prefer 8 hours each night. I usually go to sleep around 10 pm. Sometimes earlier. I'm not a night owl.

How much time do you spend training each day?

2 hours practice, 1 and half hours in the gym, and 15-30 minutes training mentally.

What’s your typical training day/schedule?

Gym time in the morning. Usually, my teammate Becca and I will go to the gym for strength training for 1 and a half to 2 hours, grab lunch and head to the Madison Curling Club around noon and practice for a couple hours. A few days a week we go back to the club at night for league games.

How do you work to achieve your daily goals?          

Getting sleep is very important for me to recharge. I mix up workouts so I don't get bored. I also watch motivational videos or listen to music that motivates me.

What is your favorite workout or fitness trend?

Cycling! With the black lights and throwback music!

What’s the most grueling work out you’ve ever done?

Circuit workouts at the Olympic Training Center, or the Manitou Incline in Colorado Springs.

What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?

Every decision I've made since I can remember revolves around curling and my desire to accomplish my goals. From college to my job, how I hang out with my friends, how long I stay out at night or what I eat or drink. I've tried to live every day thinking, what I have done today to help me towards my goals?

What is your earliest memory of doing or seeing curling?

My earliest memory is watching my dad curl at the old curling club in Madison WI. I remember the plaid carpet, a staple in any traditional club. Steve Brown, an Olympic coach and national champion many times over, gave me my first curling pin that day. He later became my first coach.

What's your earliest or favorite memory of watching the Olympics?                                 

The 2006 U.S. Olympic Trials were in my hometown when I was in high school. That was the first time I'd seen an event of that caliber up close. I was in awe of all the female curlers, and how they carried themselves on and off the ice. I knew I wanted to compete at this level. That year I watched almost every game Team USA played. Now I watch other sports too. I've watched and re-watched the U.S. women's gymnastics team win in London and Rio.

Was there a specific “breakthrough” moment/competition when you finally realized you could compete in your sport at a high enough level to reach the Olympics?

I always wanted to play at that level but things really came together at the 2010 Women's World Championship. We played well as a team, and I was able to thrive under the pressure. Since then I knew I had to keep playing at that level!

What's something cool, weird intense about your sport that people don't normally see? What’s the hardest part of your sport?

Team chemistry is vital to success. We spend a lot of time together on and off the ice. On the ice, there may seem to be a lot of downtime, but we are always thinking, planning and observing.

Are there any misconceptions about your sport that you would like to clear up?

Curling takes a lot of strength and physical fitness to perform at a high level. We spend a lot of time in the gym.

Who do you socialize with most within your sport or any sport?

Bingyu Wang,  the skip of Team China actually went to school for a year on Madison awhile back. We've known each other for a long time. This past season her team traveled to the U.S. to play in Curling Night in America, and a few months later it was special to be able to play at the world championships in China.

Have you ever worked with a sports psychologist? If so, how did it help you?

I've been working with Carly Anderson for 3 years now. She has helped me to improve in so many ways. My mental strength and resilience have improved dramatically. I've learned to see difficult situations as challenges to overcome rather than disappointments.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

"Have fun." It seems silly but when you take a sport as seriously as we do, having fun can seem difficult as times. But having fun, playing loose is much easier than being stressed.

What's a big obstacle that you've overcome in your life?

Graduating nursing school while being a competitive curler!

What is your biggest fear when competing?

That I'll look back at my curling career and wish I would've worked harder. This thought pushes me to work as hard as possible every day.

Who is your Olympic role model?

Annette Norberg, 2006 and 2010 Olympic champion, 2005, 2006 and 2011 world champion. I met her for the first time at the 2008 Junior World Championships.

Within your sport, who has been your greatest influence and why?

Early in my career, my first coach Steve Brown set a high bar of expectations for me. We practiced before and after school. Practices were fun, but he taught me the importance of being diligent. He helped build my delivery, which hasn't changed very much since. 

My last coach Ann Swisshelm was a great influence these past 3 years. She reminded me to have fun before every game. She encouraged our team off and on the ice to keep improving, not to be the team in the US, but to be the best in the world.

What athlete in any sport has been your greatest source of inspiration?

Serena Williams. She's fun to watch. She's not afraid to be a strong competitive woman. That makes her the perfect role model for young women in sport.

What advice would you give to a young child just starting out in curling?

Try to do your best every day.

Who is your biggest rival? Is it friendly or contentious?

Both women's teams in the national program, [rinks skipped by] Jamie Sinclair and Corey Christensen. We'll be playing them at the Olympic Trials in November. Because we've been in the program for the past 3 years we all know each other very well.

Which Summer Olympics sport would you like to try?

Gymnastics! I want to try the rings in the men's division, and the uneven bars from the women's division. And I couldn't try it without a blinged out leotard.

Who was the most influential in helping you achieve your dreams?

My family and my husband. My husband Tony is competitive, but much more laid back than I am. Whenever I'm stressed or worried he's the calming influence in my life. His favorite thing to tell me is, "Water off a duck's back" meaning let it go, don't worry about it, move on.

How and where do you train during the summer?

In the summer the closest curling ice is in Blaine Minn., 4 hours away. In the off-season, we travel to Blaine a couple times a month for some on-ice time. When we're home we go to the gym a lot and watch a lot of curling games. Because we're a winter sport and we all live in the cold Midwest, getting outside in the summer is very important, so anytime we can bring our workouts outside, we take advantage.

What is your favorite perk of being an elite Olympic athlete?

Getting to travel the world! I've been to so many places I never thought I'd get a chance to go to. Our latest adventure was Dudinka, Russia by the Arctic Circle!

Do you have a lucky charm?

I have a Superman necklace I keep in my curling kit. My grandmother gave it to me after the women's world championships in 2017.

Do you have any superstitions?

I'm not superstitious, but I need to tie my shoes a certain way, with the right amount of tension in order to play.

Do you have a nickname?

Neen, you'll hear my teammates call me Neen a lot.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I can flare my nostrils.

Do you have any tattoos?

Curling stone with an American flag on my right foot.

If you were not an athlete, what would you be doing?

Travel nursing in foreign countries.

When you have time off, what would constitute a perfect day for you?

Perfect day off, I hang out at my house with my family and friends. We grill out, play games on the lawn, maybe watch a sports game on TV.

How do you unwind after a competition?

Sleep. Maybe a glass of wine before bed.

Do you have any fears?

I'm afraid of falling. Heights I'm ok with but the idea of falling is making my hands clammy.

Do you like to travel?  What has been the most special place you have traveled to and why?

I enjoy traveling. Traveling to China this year was very special to see a city so rich with history. The Great Wall of China was amazing.

What's something quirky about yourself that people would be amused to learn?

I'm a movie nerd. Especially Star Wars, and superhero movies.

What's your personal motto?

"She thought she could, and she did." To me this means if you believe in yourself and work hard you can accomplish anything.

What are some of your hobbies?

Hiking Devils Lake, Wis. with friends at least once a year.  Taking a cycling class. Going to the movies with my husband, it's a frequent date night for us. My family has a tradition where we go to a Brewers baseball game together every year.

What is your music of choice while training? What are five go-to songs that motivate you while training?                                               

Hip Hop/Rap and Pop

Beyoncé:  Flawless
Eminem: Rap God
Macklemore: Glorious
Black Street: No Diggity
No Doubt: Just a Girl

Have you been to South Korea before? What are you most looking forward to about the Games being hosted in South Korea? Anything you want to see or do?

I've been to South Korea Twice, Jeonju and Uiseong. I'm most looking forward to playing in the arena, but I love Korea. I'm excited to see the coast and explore the village as much as possible. I have to have some Korean BBQ while I'm there!

Do you like kimchi or any other Korean foods?

I love Korean BBQ. When we were last in Korea, my team was trying to figure out how to properly eat it and the server came up to us, rolled up a BBQ bite and hand fed it to Aileen. 

Have you ever done karaoke? What’s your go-to karaoke song?

"Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus or "Just a Girl" by No Doubt

What will success look like for you in PyeongChang? What are your goals?

The feeling that I played my best, and part of that is standing on the podium hearing my national anthem.

Will you head home for the holidays prior to the Games? What do you most look forward to?

We'll spend the holidays with family in Madison. We usually celebrate with Tony's family on Christmas Eve and my family on Christmas day. I most look forward to playing euchre, cards, with my family.


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