Erika Brown, Allison Pottinger’s rinks advance to Olympic Curling Trials finals

Natalie Nicholson, Nicole Joraanstad
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The first members of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team will come from one of two curling rinks.

The reigning U.S. champions skipped by Erika Brown beat first-place Allison Pottinger‘s rink 5-4 on Thursday afternoon, advancing both to the best-of-three Olympic Trials championship series in Fargo, N.D.

The finals will be broadcast on NBCSN, beginning with the first game Friday at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. The second match is Saturday at 8, and the third (if necessary) is Sunday at 3.

Brown, 40, is trying to make it to the Olympics for the third time. She competed in 1988 as the youngest member of the U.S. delegation in Calgary when curling was a demonstration sport. She returned in 1998, when the U.S. was eliminated in round-robin play.

Brown’s team is known as the all-star team of U.S. curling because all four members are Olympians, including Debbie McCormickJessica Schultz and Ann Swisshelm. McCormick skipped the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team that finished in last place in Vancouver.

Pottinger’s rink won the 2012 U.S. Championship. Three members of Pottinger’s rink were on the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team with McCormick — Nicole Joraanstad and Natalie Nicholson and Pottinger. The fourth member is Tabitha Peterson.

Rinks skipped by Courtney George and Cassie Potter were eliminated in double round-robin play in Fargo.

The qualifiers for the men’s championship series will be determined later Thursday. Teams led by 2006 Olympic bronze medalist skip Pete Fenson, 2010 Olympic skip John Shuster and 2013 U.S. runner-up Tyler George are in the running for two spots in the championship series.

Reigning U.S. champion rink led by Brady Clark was eliminated. The men’s winner is not guaranteed an Olympic berth.