Becca Hamilton, Matt Hamilton
AP

It’s all about family as curling Hamiltons vie for Olympics

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — When one of his games at the U.S. Olympic curling trials was in a lull, Matt Hamilton couldn’t help but take a peek at the proceedings on the adjacent ice sheet. That’s where his sister Becca was playing.

The Hamiltons of McFarland, Wis., are here together to chase their Olympic dreams.

“It’s kind of a surreal feeling,” Matt said. “I’ve watched her come up and learn how to curl. I started two years before her, and I kind of coached her a little bit all the way through. Now to see her playing at the top level in the U.S. and be a contender along with myself in the same event is just awesome.”

Matt, 28, is a member of the team skipped by three-time Olympian and 2006 bronze medalist John Shuster, one of five competing to become the U.S. men’s team in PyeongChang.

Becca, 27, is the 2017 USA Curling Female Athlete of the Year and on the team skipped by Nina Roth, one of three in the women’s division vying for an Olympic berth.

“Really a special opportunity for my brother and I to be here,” Becca said. “We’ve been working our butts off for the last four years for this opportunity. I’m glad he’s by my side.”

MORE: Curling trials preview, broadcast schedule

Next month, Matt and Becca will compete together as one of eight two-player teams in the mixed doubles trials in Blaine, Minn. Mixed doubles makes its Olympic debut in PyeongChang. The Hamiltons are the 2017 national champions.

“Matt and I are a force to be reckoned with,” Becca said. “We work well together on the ice and off the ice.”

In men’s and women’s play, each team is made up of four players. Players alternate delivering 42-pound stones down a narrow, 150-foot sheet into a 12-foot target area known as the “house.” The skip stands in the house when not delivering and calls out where he or she wants the player to place the stone.

Two teammates follow the stone as it’s moving and, as commanded by the skip, vigorously sweep the ice in front of the stone to cause it to slide farther or alter its direction. Teams are awarded points for their stones winding up closest to the center of the house. The game lasts 10 ends, akin to innings in baseball.

The Hamiltons are among a host of family members who have competed together at the highest levels of curling over the years. Twin sisters Sarah and Taylor Anderson are at the trials with the Cory Christensen-skipped team. Sisters Cassie and Jamie Johnson were on the 2006 Olympic team.

Matt and Becca both played soccer, among other sports, before they were introduced to curling. Their father, Scott, curled in a league for about a year, but Matt didn’t get into the sport until a friend invited him to try it in 2004. Two years later Becca began playing.

Scott and Cathy Hamilton both are in Omaha to cheer on their kids.

“My mom and dad are super proud,” Becca said. “They’re with us every step of the way in every tournament we’re in, and that’s all we can ask for.”

Brother and sister spend hours in the gyms working on strength and conditioning.

“When you go out there and sweep 30 seconds as hard as you can, you have a minute and a half to be ready to go and do it again,” Matt said. “Doing it on short bursts with 100 percent effort is the main thing.”

Matt’s day job is as a research and development technician for Spectrum Brands near Madison, Wis. He adjusts his work schedule so he can train and travel across the nation, and world, for competitions.

Becca is in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Olympic Hopefuls Program, which allows her to concentrate on her curling while squeezing in hours at a Dick’s store whenever she can.

“I’m my sister’s biggest fan, and I know she’s mine,” Matt said. “We love to compete against each other. We love to chirp in each other’s ears. She’s really witty. I might say something, but she’ll get me back for sure. It’s a fun relationship, and she’s a good little sister, and I wouldn’t trade her for anybody.”

It was apparent Sunday, when both were playing at the same time, that big brother keeps an eye on her.

“Maybe on big shots I looked up at the Jumbotron and saw their situation and thought about what I would do,” Matt said. “We both know we have to take care of our business. The majority of the focus is on our game, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t look at hers.”

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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