Matt and Becca Hamilton are U.S.' first Olympic mixed doubles curling team

Image Credit: Rich Harmer/USA Curling

A brother and sister from Wisconsin will be the busiest athletes at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

A month ago the Hamilton siblings, Matt and Becca, qualified to compete at the Olympics with the U.S. men's and women's curling teams, and today they also qualified to play as a mixed doubles team.

With a win over two of their teammates, John Shuster (skip of Matt's four-man team) and Cory Christensen (alternate on Becca's four-woman team), at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for mixed doubles curling, the Hamiltons earned the opportunity to curl on potentially every day of the Olympics.

The Hamiltons will start their Olympic competitions with the mixed doubles tournament on Thursday, Feb. 8, the day before the the Opening Ceremony marks the official beginning of the Olympics. When mixed doubles wraps up on Tuesday the 13th, they'll start playing separately in the men's and women's tournaments on Wednesday the 14th. The traditional curling tournaments go until Sunday, Feb. 25, the day of the Closing Ceremony.

Of course, if one of their teams doesn't advance past the round-robin rounds to the semifinals and medal games, they'll have some time off. But if they do go all the way to the gold medal matches, it'll mean 18 straight days of competition for the Hamiltons.

Matt and Becca showed their readiness during the Olympic Trials. They had the second-best record of the round-robin stage, 5-2, then beat Shuster and Christensen twice in two days to win the Olympic berth. The score of the final was 6-5.

After the match, the siblings--who say their partnership works because they can be brutally honest on the ice--had nothing but kind words for each other.

Becca, the younger Hamilton by a year and a half, said her older brother "taught me everything I know."

Matt then said of Becca, "it's been impressive to watch her grow up and become the superstar she is now."

In mixed doubles curling, teams consist of one man and one woman, games last eight ends with six stones for each team. One stone per team is prepositioned on the ice, one player throws the first and last rocks and the other player throws the second, third and fourth rocks. In traditional curling, teams are made of four players of the same gender, games last 10 ends with eight stones, all of which are thrown.
The International Olympic Committee voted to add mixed doubles to the Olympic program in 2015, and it'll make it's Olympic debut in PyeongChang. 




Jessica Kooreman makes second U.S. Olympic short track team

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Jessica Kooreman, Thomas Hong and Ryan Pivirotto grabbed the last three spots on the U.S. Olympic short track team on Sunday as competition wrapped up at the Olympic Trials. 

Kooreman survived a fall in the last women's race of the Trials, the 1000m #2 A Final, to finish second overall in the 1000m and earn a spot on the team that will race on Olympic ice in PyeongChang.

Kooreman, a 2014 Olympian, joined Lana Gehring, a 2010 Olympian and Maame Biney, a 17-year-old who will make her Olympic debut in 2018, on the U.S. Olympic women's short track team.

At 34 years old, Kooreman will be the veteran of the team. Four years ago, she swept all three events at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials and then finished fourth in the 1000m at the Sochi Winter Games.

She struggled to breakthrough to the top spots at this Trials; she finished third overall in both the 1500m on Friday and 500m on Saturday.

Left off the team is Katherine-Reutter Adamek, a two-time Olympic medalist from Vancouver who retired in 2013 due to injuries before coming back in 2016 in hopes of making another Olympic team. Reutter is the American record holder and Olympic silver medalist in the 1000m, but her Olympic aspirations ended when she didn't qualify for the 1000m #2 A Final today.  

Hong, a native of South Korea who moved to the U.S. at 4 years old, finished fourth in the men's 1000m #2 A Final, and fourth overall. Pivirotto didn't qualify for that A Final, and had to watch from the sidelines as his Olympic fate was decided. Pivirotto clinched the fifth and final spot by finishing fifth overall across all distances. 

The overall winner on the men's side was John-Henry Krueger, who was nearly undefeated over the three days of racing and won four of six A Finals: both 1000m finals today, the 500m #2 final yesterday and the 1500m #2 final on Friday. 22-year-old Krueger was expected to make the Olympic team four years ago, but had to withdraw from some races at the 2014 U.S. Olympic Trials when he was diagnosed with swine flu.

J.R. Celski, the only member of the team with prior Olympic experience, had an uncharacteristically rough Trials with four falls in three days. However his results when he did stay on his skates were good enough to put him into second-place overall. The third overall men's skater was Aaron Tran, who also make the Olympic team.

The U.S. Olympic short track team will be:

Lana Gehring
Maame Biney
Jessica Kooreman
John-Henry Krueger
J.R. Celski
Aaron Tran
Thomas Hong
Ryan Pivirotto

Maame Biney is first black woman to make Olympic speed skating team

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KEARNS, Utah (AP) — Maame Biney became the first black woman to qualify for a U.S. Olympic speed skating team with a pair of victories in the 500 meters.

The 17-year-old native of Ghana cruised to victory in the first 500 final at the short track Olympic Trials on Saturday, beating Olympians Lana Gehring, Jessica Kooreman and Katherine Reutter-Adamek.

"I can't believe it, aww geez," she said after squealing with joy. "It's a really good feeling, but it has to set in first because it takes me a while. I'm like, 'Holy cow.'"

Before the second final, her father sitting in the stands held up a sign reading: "Kick some hiney Biney."

She sure did.

Biney set a blistering pace in taking an early lead that widened as the wild and wooly race went on. She crossed the finish line on the hockey-sized rink and began clapping and then pumping her arms so hard she lost her balance and fell.

She went down laughing all the way.

"When I realized that I made the Olympic team, I started cheering like crazy and then I made my epic fall," she said.

Biney will be the second black speedskater on a U.S. Olympic team. Shani Davis was 19 when he qualified for the short track team in 2002. He later switched to long track and won four medals, including two golds.

Now 35, Davis will try to make the long track team at its trials next month.

On the men's side, J.R. Celski qualified for his third Olympic team despite a crash in the early rounds of the men's 500. He rebounded to win the C final, finishing well ahead of the other three skaters.

"I really couldn't get control of myself after the first fall," he said. "I fell into the pads a little awkward, kind of hurt myself a bit but fortunately my trainer and I took care of it."

In the second final, Celski finished second to John-Henry Krueger, who qualified for his second individual event in South Korea. He made the team Friday by winning the 1,500.

"Last night I made sure not to get too excited and try to keep my composure," Krueger said. "My goal was to keep a steady speed but to keep my track tight and make sure no one could pass."

Joining Krueger and Celski on the men's team is 21-year-old Olympic rookie Aaron Tran, who won the first 500 and finished last among four in the second final.

Tran attended the same middle and high schools six years apart from Celski in their hometown of Federal Way, Washington.

"He's a great role model, a great leader," said Tran, who first met Celski when he came to their middle school for an assembly.

Lana Gehring, already on the Olympic team in the 1,500, finished second in the first 500 and last among four in the second final.

The men's and women's 1,000 will be contested Sunday at the Utah Olympic Oval.

Thomas Hong, who was born in South Korea, and Ryan Pivirotto still have shots to make the men's team, which will be comprised of five skaters.

Former Olympians Kooreman and Reutter-Adamek, along with Kristen Santos, remain in contention for the women's team, which only has three spots available.

Nick Goepper opens Olympic qualifying on podium

Image Credit: Jeffrey Swinger/USA TODAY Sports

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — U.S. Olympic qualifying for the men’s freeski slopestyle team is now underway, and it’s Sochi bronze medalist Nick Goepper delivering the first blow.

Goepper finished second at Dew Tour Breckenridge, the first selection event for the U.S. team, giving him the early edge in Olympic qualifying.

With a victory at any of the remaining selection events, Goepper would be looking good for one of up to four spots on the team for PyeongChang.

“I was really hoping to ski my best today, and I think I skied 98%,” Goepper said afterward. “The Olympic selection podium is a bonus and eases the pressure a little bit for the next couple, but the pressure wasn’t really there. I’m just thinking of these as individual events [instead of Olympic qualifiers].”

Alex Hall (fifth place) and Sochi silver medalist Gus Kenworthy (sixth place) also got their Olympic qualifying attempts off to a decent start, but in order to be automatically nominated to the Olympic team, skiers need a minimum of two top-three finishes during the selection events.

Goepper was the only U.S. skier able to crack the podium in Breckenridge.

Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut (first place) and Norway’s Oystein Braaten (third place) played the role of spoiler for the rest of the U.S. team. Harlaut and Braaten are both considered medal contenders for PyeongChang.

Crashes took their toll on several U.S. Olympic hopefuls.

McRae Williams, the reigning world champion, was forced to drop out after crashing on his first run. Colby Stevenson and 2014 Olympian Bobby Brown also did not finish the contest after taking spills of their own.

The contest was also missing the reigning Olympic gold medalist. Joss Christensen sat out the event as he rehabs from a torn ACL but plans to return in January for the final four selection events.

On the women’s side, Maggie Voisin remains on track for a nomination to the U.S. Olympic team.

She finished fourth, best among Americans, in the Olympic qualifier at Breckenridge on the strength of a run that featured three 900s.

Voisin won the first qualifier for women’s slopestyle, which was held last season.

She still needs one more top-three finish at any of the three remaining selection events to be eligible for an automatic nomination, but she has consistently been the top performer among the U.S. women.

With two-time X Games gold medalist Kelly Sildaru sidelined with a knee injury this season, the field looks wide open for PyeongChang.

Voisin was slated to make her Olympic debut in Sochi but was injured just days before the competition.

As long as she stays healthy, she will be a medal contender in PyeongChang, as will Norway’s Johanne Killi and France’s Tess Ledeux.

Killi narrowly edged out Ledeux, who recently turned 16, for the victory in Breckenridge. Sarah Hoefflin of Switzerland rounded out the podium.

Four U.S. selection events remain for the men, and three events remain for the women. Olympic qualifying for ski slopestyle will resume in January with a series of contests in Aspen, Colo. and Mammoth, Calif.

Breckenridge Olympic Qualifier Results

Men's Freeski Slopestyle
1. Henrik Harlaut (SWE), 95.00
2. Nick Goepper (USA), 92.00
3. Oystein Braaten (NOR), 91.33
4. Evan McEachran (CAN), 90.00
5. Alex Hall (USA), 89.66

Women's Freeski Slopestyle
1. Johanne Killi (NOR), 90.00
2. Tess Ledeux (FRA), 89.00
3. Sarah Hoefflin (SUI), 84.00
4. Maggie Voisin (USA), 83.00
5. Isabel Atkin (GBR), 81.33

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings

Men's Freeski Slopestyle (after 1 of 5 events)
1. Nick Goepper, 80*
2. Alex Hall, 45
3. Gus Kenworthy, 40
4. Bobby Brown, 32
5. Cody LaPlante, 29

*Has one top-three result.

Women's Freeski Slopestyle (after 2 of 5 events)
1. Maggie Voisin, 150*
2. Devin Logan, 82
3. Darian Stevens, 81
4. Taylor Lundquist, 52
5. Nadia Gonzales, 28

*Has one top-three result.

Curling misconceptions that need to be swept away

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Curlers want to set the record straight: Curling is a sport, not a game. It’s not just for beer drinkers, and it’s definitely not easy. And yes, curlers do work out.

Despite its centuries-long history, curling doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. In October, the curling world was sent into a uproar when an employee of American Airlines reportedly told a passenger that curling wasn’t a sport. The passenger was trying to check her curling broom for a flight, but the airline agent allegedly told her it couldn’t be checked under the airline’s standard policy for sport equipment.

In a Facebook post that quickly went viral among curlers and curling fans, the passenger said that the employee argued that curling wasn’t a legitimate sport, and certainly “isn’t an elite sport, like golf.” Therefore, the passenger would need to pay a $150 fee for checking her bag of curling equipment instead of the normal $25 fee for sporting gear like hockey sticks or golf clubs.

After the Washington Post reported on the incident, an American Airlines spokesman said in a statement, “We all agree that curling is a sport.”

It wasn’t the first and likely won’t be the last time that the legitimacy of curling was called into question. To help Olympic fans better understand curling, NBC Olympics asked members of the U.S. Olympic curling team and other top American curlers to name the biggest misconceptions about curling. Here’s what they wish everyone knew about the Olympic sport known as “the roaring game.” 

Nina Roth, skip of the U.S. Olympic women’s curling team:

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

John Shuster, skip of the U.S. Olympic men’s curling team and Olympic bronze medalist (2006):

It has become quite physically advanced in recent years!

Tabitha Peterson, third on the U.S. Olympic women’s curling team:

Until people actually get on the ice and try it, they think it looks easy.

John Landsteiner, lead on the U.S. Olympic men’s curling team:

[People think] that the leads shots don't matter. They can't win games, but they can lose games. Every shot matters.

Aileen Geving, second on the U.S. Olympic women’s curling team:

You DO need to be in shape to be a great curler. It isn't just drinking beer, although it can be. To be at the Olympic level, you exert a lot more energy than you do just playing for fun.

Matt Hamilton, second on the U.S. Olympic men’s curling team:

It’s not just a beer drinker's sport and it does require strength and conditioning to compete at a high level in this game. Though the casual play may not require these things as much, for high-level players it is a difference maker.

Joe Polo, alternate on the U.S. Olympic men’s curling team and Olympic bronze medalist (2006):

That it isn't a sport. Curling involves a mix of finesse, power, endurance and strategy that most sports don't.

Craig Brown, alternate on 2014 U.S. Olympic men’s curling team:

It is a very social game at the recreational level, but you truly have to be a dedicated athlete to compete at the top level of the game. It's not just out-of-shape people eating pizza and drinking beer to pass the winter.

Monica Walker, lead on Team Sinclair, which finished second at the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials:

Everyone thinks curling is a drinking sport. Sure, folks have a drink after games, but as they would in recreational softball or soccer. There is SO MUCH more to curling than what meets the eye on TV. Everyone throws the rock too. Everyone sweeps except the skip. We all just rotate around positions.

Colin Hufman, second on Team Clark, which competed at the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials:

[People think] curling isn't a sport, it's a game. But last time I checked, it's called the Olympic Games. That being said, it's way more physically demanding than it looks. To be the best you have to squeeze every ounce of potential out of yourself in the weight room in the hopes that the one extra inch you can carry a rock while sweeping will make the difference between gold and silver.

Alex Carlson, third on Team Sinclair, which finished second at the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials:

People think curling is easy and they can start today and compete in the Olympics in four years. While I do agree that anyone can learn to curl and enjoy it, curling at a competitive level is not something you can just jump in and do. It takes years to build up the skills to execute a shot that is perfect. There are so many small skills that add up to the execution required for Olympic-level curling.

Quinn Evenson, alternate on Team Brown, which competed at the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials:

Yes, being in shape for curling is necessary.

Jamie Sinclair, skip of the team that finished second at the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials:

It is very physically demanding. Fitness has become a huge factor for top performing teams in the last 10 years. Interval training and upper body work for sweepers and leg drive for the throwers.

Chris Plys, alternate on 2010 U.S. Olympic men’s curling team:

Lots of people think curling is easy, and that it doesn't take much athletic skill. But that couldn't be further from the truth. No, you don't need to be able to lift weights like a football player or need crazy amounts of guts like freestyle [skiing] athletes, but the sweeping is incredibly physically demanding. The way you throw the rock is similar to how a player swings a golf club. It is years and years of practice. When people say it looks easy, sometimes I take it as a compliment as it is something that we are always trying to perfect. It only looks easy because we have all done it hundreds of thousands of times.

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