Loudmouth Golf

Remember those pants?

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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.

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Mikaela Shiffrin plans to return next week

Mikaela Shiffrin
AP
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Mikaela Shiffrin plans to race the next World Cup slalom in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, next Monday, according to her social media.

Shiffrin, 20 and the reigning Olympic, World and World Cup slalom champion, has been out since suffering a right MCL tear and a bone fracture in a Dec. 12 warm-up crash.

Her timetable for a return this season has shifted in the last eight weeks.

The rescheduling of a canceled Jan. 31 slalom for next Monday changed her previous plans to return the final weekend of February.

“Our goal is to have her be really close to 100 percent, if not 100 percent [before competing],” said Shiffrin’s mother, Eileen, in an earlier Denver Post report. “We’ve heard all these horror stories about athletes who went back too soon and then sustained injuries that did end their careers.”

The World Cup season concludes March 20. There are four slaloms left on the calendar, and Shiffrin trails slalom standings leader Frida Hansdotter by 305 points.

A winner receives 100 points per victory, so Shiffrin could take her fourth straight World Cup season title, but it would all but require her to win all four remaining slaloms and for Hansdotter (and others) to struggle.

MORE: Lindsey Vonn’s winning streak snapped

Tony Parker plans to play in Olympic qualifying, Rio Games

Tony Parker
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Tony Parker said he plans to play in both Olympic qualifying in July and the Rio Games in August, according to L’Equipe.

Parker, 33, previously said he could miss the tournaments this summer, at least in part due to his wife’s pregnancy, according to French media.

Parker said his wife is due in late July, which would fall in between France’s Olympic qualifying tournament (July 4-10 in the Philippines) and the Rio Games (Aug. 6-21).

Parker led France at the 2012 Olympics with 15.7 points per game. The French lost two games in London, to the gold medalist U.S. in group play and silver medalist Spain in the quarterfinals.

Parker led all players with 19 points per game at 2013 EuroBasket, won by France.

In September, Parker and France fell in the EuroBasket semifinals to Spain in a winner-goes-to-Rio game.

The defeat forced France to a last-chance, winner-take-all, six-team Olympic qualifying tournament in the Philippines in July.

In the Philippines, France will face a field that includes Canada, which had nine NBA players on its roster (including Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins) at August’s FIBA Americas yet was stunned in a winner-goes-to-Rio game by Venezuela, which had zero NBA players.

France is likely to be without Chicago Bulls All-Star Joakim Noah this summer as he underwent season-ending left shoulder surgery in January and hasn’t played a major tournament for the national team since 2011 EuroBasket.

Other French NBA players include Charlotte Hornets swingman Nicolas Batum, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw and Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier.

MORE: Kristaps Porzingis not yet committed to Latvia Olympic qualifying run