VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Though Canada’s curling success at the Vancouver Games was a highlight for the curling-crazed host nation, the biggest headliner from the Vancouver Olympic Centre came from an unlikely source – the pants of the Norwegian team. Three years later and just 60 miles away from 2010 Olympic curling venue, Norway’s pants were still the talk of the curling world at the 2013 World Men’s Curling Championships in Victoria.
The story behind the pants begins shortly before the 2010 Winter Olympics, when Norway’s national Olympic committee outfitted Thomas Ulsrud’s squad with rather dull, all black uniforms for the tournament. Ulsrud’s teammate Christoffer Svae, an enterprising 31-year-old from Oslo, thought the team should be more patriotic and purchased several checkered pairs of pants with the Norwegian colors of red, blue, and white. As soon as the Norwegians took the ice for their first game, the pants were an immediate sensation. Most major international news agencies interviewed the team and a Facebook fan page developed nearly half a million followers. Though the athletes and coaches were initially worried the attention would become a distraction, the Norwegians made it all the way to the gold medal match, where they earned silver.
The team now considers the decision the best choice they’ve ever made, as a lucrative sponsorship deal with the manufacturer, Loudmouth Golf, has not only kept them in the spotlight, but also allowed several of them to focus more on curling. Loudmouth Golf, which sports fans might recognize as John Daly’s outfitter, provides the rink with about 50 pairs of pants for the year and gives them a percentage of all sales in Scandinavia, a market in which Loudmouth had zero traction until sales exploded during the Vancouver Games.
In Victoria, the Norwegians had three different pairs of pants at their disposal, but Svae says he is still working on which pants will be used at the Olympics next year. In terms of their performance, Ulsrud, a 41-year-old married father, was a bit disappointed with his squad’s fifth-place finish at Worlds, but noted the 2010 and 2011 European champions were without one of their regulars in Victoria, as Torger Nergaard was home with his wife, who was expecting their first child.
Now that Ulsrud’s team has qualified for the Sochi Games, expect the pants to be in the spotlight once again next February.