U.S. Olympic curling team includes siblings

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Becca Hamilton made the U.S. Olympic curling team, and then the real pressure was on.

A few hours later Saturday, brother Matt competed in the U.S. men’s trials finals for a chance to join her in PyeongChang.

“A lot of the times, I was sitting there watching Matt’s game, biting my nails,” she said Sunday. “When we won, I was like, ‘Matt better win.'”

Matt Hamilton came through Saturday night, when John Shuster skipped his team to a victory over Team Heath McCormick 7-5 in Game 3 of the best-of-three trials finals.

Shuster, a 2006 Olympic bronze medalist, heads to a fourth straight Olympics.

Countries qualify Olympic spots based on world championships standings and then pick the teams that go to the Winter Games.

In the U.S. trials were last week in Omaha.

The men’s team will be Shuster and John Landsteiner, teammates in Sochi, as well as first-timers Tyler George and Matt Hamilton.

The entire U.S. women’s team — skip Nina Roth, Becca Hamilton, Tabitha Peterson and Aileen Geving — are first-time Olympians, having beaten Team Jamie Sinclair at the trials finals.

After the women’s best-of-three decider Saturday afternoon, Matt opened his Facebook page to see his father’s update: “My daughter’s an Olympian.”

“I was like, ‘Well, better get it now,”‘ he said by phone as the siblings drove 6 1/2 hours from Omaha to their home outside Madison, Wis.

Still, watching his sister win the trials relieved much of the pressure he felt about competing later in the day.

“If she didn’t win … I just did not want to cross that bridge at all,” Matt said. “It was harder to watch her games than it was to play in my own, because at least I have some control.”

At 28 and one year older than his sister, Matt Hamilton has been curling since 2004 , when a friend invited him to give it a try.

Becca began two years later; she was named the USA Curling Female Athlete of the Year for 2017.

Together they won the national title in mixed doubles — a coed discipline making its Olympic debut in PyeongChang.

The U.S. Olympic mixed doubles team will be decided at another trials next month in Blaine, Minn., where the Hamiltons are among the favorites.

“Having one person from a family is like the norm for an Olympics,” Matt said. “When you get two people from a family, that’s like icing on the cake.”

The siblings have already been to South Korea — Matt’s first trip to Asia — when they were invited to help the locals train for the Olympics.

They had their first logistics meeting Sunday morning, filling out paperwork, learning about housing and sizing up for Team USA uniforms and gear.

“I kind of got the chills when he was, like, showing us layouts of the Olympic village,” Matt said. “It kind of hit me like, ‘Hey, that’s going to be my dwelling in 81 days.'”

Both Hamiltons are looking forward to the chance to mingle with other athletes. Matt made friends with a bobsledder at an Olympic festival earlier this year, and he’s looking forward to catching up.

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Sam Mikulak to retire from gymnastics after Tokyo Olympics

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Sam Mikulak, the U.S.’ top male gymnast, said he will retire after the Tokyo Olympics, citing a wrist injury and emotional health revelations during a forced break from the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It does sound like some pretty crazy news, but there’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Mikulak said in a YouTube video published Sunday night. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it during quarantine.”

The 27-year-old is a two-time Olympian, six-time U.S. all-around champion and the only active U.S. male gymnast with Olympic experience.

Mikulak said he noticed significant wrist inflammation last year that was temporarily healed by a November cortisone shot. But during quarantine, the wrist worsened even though he wasn’t doing gymnastics. He took a month off from working out, but the wrist didn’t heal.

He thought for a time that he might not return to gymnastics at all. A doctor told him he would need cortisone shots for the rest of his career.

“At that point, it was really made for me that this has to be my final year of gymnastics because I don’t want to ruin myself beyond this sport,” Mikulak said.

Mikulak also noted realizations from the forced time out of the gym. He learned that he’s much less stressed while not doing gymnastics, a sport he began at age 2. Mikulak’s parents were gymnasts at Cal.

“For so long, I’ve been sacrificing, and I’m sick of it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to be free from gymnastics and being able to do all these things that I’ve been putting off in my life for so long.”

Mikulak realized a career goal in 2018 when he earned his first individual world championships medal, a bronze on high bar. He wants to cap his career with a first Olympic medal in Tokyo, then, perhaps, become a coach or open his own gym.

Mikulak recently got engaged to Mia Atkins, and they got another puppy, Barney.

“Everything I’ve done in gymnastics is enough for me right now,” said Mikulak, who plans to document the next year on YouTube. “I was actually somewhat happy that I was able to come to that type of decision because for so long I felt like gymnastics really wasn’t going to be fulfilling until I’ve gotten my Olympic medal. And during quarantine, I had this whole revelation where, you know what, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I’m not doing gymnastics, so even if I don’t accomplish these goals, I am still going to be so damn happy.”

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April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

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April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

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