When she settled into her room at the Athletes’ Village in Beijing, American curler Nina Roth decorated a wall with family photos to remember the support she has at home.
His teammates brought the real thing.
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Captain Tabitha Peterson only has to look at the rink to find a comforting face: her sister, Tara, is also a member of the USA women’s team. Becca Hamilton’s brother plays for American men, giving them something most athletes at these Olympics can’t have: a family in Beijing to support them.
“To be able to lean on my brother – and I guess the same goes for the sisters on my team, they know each other – it’s just great to have some sort of family here,” Becca said. Hamilton. “I mean, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. But for the most part, it’s great.
Much like last year’s Summer Games in Tokyo, the Winter Olympics are being held with partially full venues and no foreign fans. China has also imposed travel restrictions in an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19.
This forced most athletes to leave at home the small entourage of friends and relatives that usually accompanied them to the Olympics – part of the reward for helping them reach the top of their sport.
“It’s such an opportunity, which our family members are also working for, and none of us could do it without their support,” said Roth, who also competed in Pyeongchang. “It was really fun celebrating with them at the last Olympics. So it’s a shame they can’t be here this time.
But some of his teammates have found the perfect way around the restrictions. The Hamiltons competed in mixed doubles four years ago and still spend a lot of time together at these Olympics.
“I have, like, one of my best friends and my curling partner here,” Matt Hamilton said. “Not only do I have a sister and a confidante here, but I have someone who will do my laundry. …So she really takes care of me while we’re here.
They’re not the only families hanging out at the Ice Cube Curling Venue this month.
The mixed doubles field last week included two married couples: Magnus Nedregotten and Kristin Skaslien of Norway, who won the silver medal, and Czechs Zuzana Paulova and Tomas Paul. Canadian male and female players Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant are engaged and plan to wed in June.
And the Danish women’s curling team also includes a pair of sisters, Madeleine and Denise Dupont.
“I think it makes the bond between us much stronger,” said Madeleine Dupont. “I can’t imagine not seeing her all the time.”
A niche sport played mostly in a few colder climates, curling has long been a family affair, passed down from parents as a treasured heirloom or a favorite recipe.
Norwegian Magnus Vaagberg is the son of two Olympic curlers. His father, Lars, and uncle Paal Trulsen won gold in 2002 in a quartet that also included Magnus’ current teammate – and six-time Olympian – Torger Nergaard.
“I remember staying up late realizing something cool had happened,” said Vaagberg, who was 7 at the time. “It’s something very unique with curling, a close family bond everywhere. So you’re playing people who played my dad back then, and their sons and daughters, that’s pretty cool.
The Petersons’ mother grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and learned curling from her father. She taught it to her daughters, who started when they were 10 and 8; a brother, Trent, also curled for a time before turning to professional golf.
“You were kind of born into the sport,” Tara Peterson said.
While the siblings can be expected to team up, there’s no guarantee they’ll get along during the hundreds of hours they’ll spend together training, playing and surrendering. at tournaments every year. Tensions between any group of teammates can boil over – even before you add the added resentment over who destroyed the family car or neglected to take out the trash.
Madeleine Dupont said she and her sister used to argue about curling until their mother gave them a time out.
“When we were young, 100 per cent, my mum would always say, ‘Now we need time off curling. You can’t talk about curling all the time,'” she said. all in separate places so it’s not a problem anymore but it’s still hard to just leave it at the rink.
Nedregotten said he and Skaslien were doing what they called a “hot wash” – venting their feelings before moving on to the next game. Most of the time, however, siblings and spouses say teaming up with a parent might even provide a competitive advantage.
“We’re often on the same page without even really having to say anything,” said Tabitha Peterson. “If there’s a conflict, or whatever, I think it’s easier as siblings to forgive and forget a lot quicker.”
US captain John Shuster is in his fifth Olympic Games. When he won the gold medal in Pyeongchang, his parents, his wife and one of his children were in the crowd. These Games, he is FaceTiming his family from 14 time zones as they host watch parties and special school events to stay connected as best they can.
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“I was lucky to have them with me at four Olympics,” Shuster said. “It’s a chance for them to be at home and experience the Olympics with lots of friends and family members who have never come to the Olympics with us.
“They get to see that other side,” he said. “It’s not better, that’s for sure. But it’s not really that bad either.