AP

U.S. gold-medal curling team misses nationals to promote the sport

Leave a comment

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — John Shuster‘s U.S. Olympic curling team had planned for a whirlwind couple of months in 2018, hoping to bounce from PyeongChang to the U.S. Championships in Fargo and then perhaps on to the world championship in Las Vegas.

Then they won a gold medal.

On Friday, the day before the start of the national tournament, Shuster’s team found themselves being chauffeured around the Big Apple after ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

It’s part of a celebrity tour that includes television appearances, a Sports Illustrated photo shoot, the ceremonial puck drop at an NHL game, an outdoor curling exhibition in Manhattan’s Bryant Park and even a cameo by Tyler George and Matt Hamilton in a Broadway play.

As a result, the team bowed out of the Fargo event. John Landsteiner said “it hurts a little bit” to miss his first national tournament in 12 years and a shot at worlds, but it’s tough to complain about the VIP treatment in New York.

“We keep kind of joking about it: ‘Well, we could be in Fargo right now,'” Landsteiner said, chuckling.

Rick Patzke, the CEO of USA Curling who is accompanying the group in New York, said the team is handling its newfound fame well, knowing that it’s the best chance any U.S. curling team has had to promote the game that has seen steady growth since it became an Olympic medal sport in 1998.

“They kind of wake up and say, “Where do we go today?’ It’s kind of like ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ times a thousand,” Patzke said.

Said Landsteiner, “It all feels pretty cool to a bunch of small-town guys from Minnesota.”

Patzke said Shuster’s team is still hoping to make an appearance in Fargo, although that could be nixed by a West Coast media tour.

“If we can have a plane change in Fargo, that would be great,” he said.

The national tournament at Scheels Arena in Fargo kicks off with the opening ceremony Saturday and ends with the men’s and women’s championships March 10.

While fans may be disappointed that Team Shuster isn’t playing, tourney organizers say their gold medal places more attention on the event and there are several men’s and women’s teams that could be future Olympic medalists.

“They are on a massive tour right now promoting the sport. And it’s good for it,” said Evan Workin, the manager of the Fargo-Moorhead Curling Club and a member of the Jed Brundidge team that’s playing for a national title. “It’s obviously something you need to do.”

USA Curling staff member Tom Violette, who was helping Friday with finishing touches inside the Fargo arena, said the opportunities that come with an Olympic title are “just too important and too numerous” to pass up. He also said the interest that goes with the gold medal has made it “enjoyable and challenging” for the curling organization.

“Pretty crazy times right now. It’s just nuts. I can’t come up for a better word for it,” Violette said. “I don’t think anyone in the world expected a gold medal.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Top moments from Team USA’s run to curling gold

Jessie Diggins, inspired by Body Issue, shares eating disorder battle

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jessie Diggins hopes to open a conversation about body image after appearing in ESPN the Magazine‘s “Body Issue.” The Olympic gold medalist detailed her own experience with an eating disorder as a teenager in what she called “the most important blog I’ll ever write.”

“When I was 18-19 years old, I had everything in the world going for me, but I struggled with confidence and didn’t love myself,” Diggins, now 26, wrote on her website. “I suffered from an eating disorder, and eventually sought help at a treatment center, checking in for a summer program that saved my life. So when I was approached about the ESPN issue, I thought “is this REALLY something I want to do? Will it bring back old memories? Will I be ok with everyone seeing my body exactly as it is?”

Diggins is remembered for winning the first U.S. Olympic cross-country skiing title with Kikkan Randall in PyeongChang (Here comes Diggins!). In the cross-country world, she’s also reputed for her bubbly presence, spreading glitter across her face and sharing it with fellow skiers before races.

She wants to be associated with much more.

“I want to be known not for going through an eating disorder, but for helping other women and men speak up when they need help and not feel judged for needing a friend to talk it through with,” Diggins wrote. “Statistically speaking, at least 6% of you reading this right now are struggling with disordered eating in some way. So to those of you for whom it feels like the end of the world, I can say this: it can, and it does, get better. I know, because I lived it. It will take more courage than most anything else in your life, but you can get better. And it’s worth it.”

Years before becoming a medal-winning athlete, Diggins checked into The Emily Program, a national leader for eating disorder treatment.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but also the most important,” she wrote. “Because it saved my life, in every way that a life can be saved. I learned that I was struggling with this so much because I needed an outlet for stress, and that it was ok to feel a range of emotions – that I could survive feeling pressured, stressed, unhappy, sad, or angry as well as feeling happy-go-lucky.”

Diggins called posing for the Body Issue “a full-circle moment.” ESPN says the Body Issue celebrates every shape and size of athletes in artful fashion.

“[It’s] a chance for me to use a large stage to waltz right up to the microphone and share a message that I think is extremely important, and long overdue,” Diggins wrote. “We need to open up the conversation about body image, self confidence, and disordered eating. It should not be a shameful thing, or a taboo topic. It’s more prevalent than people think, and perhaps making help easier to find and less difficult to ask for could save some lives.”

MORE: Biathlon legend retires with four Olympic golds

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Darya Domracheva, triple Olympic gold medalist in Sochi, retires

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Darya Domracheva, a triple 2014 Olympic gold medalist and Belarus’ most decorated Olympian, has retired from biathlon at age 31.

Domracheva is leaving the sport because she could not continue in biathlon while raising daughter Xenia with husband Ole Einar Bjørndalen, the 13-time Olympic medalist biathlete for Norway.

“All the time after the season, I was trying to find a compromise which would allow me to raise a child and combine with a professional career at the same time,” Domracheva said, according to the International Biathlon Union (IBU). “Unfortunately I did not find an optimal solution which would allow me to combine those two important life parts. This decision is well weighted and very tough, but I finish my sports career.”

Domracheva was one of the biggest stars of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games as the only athlete to claim three individual gold medals, four years after being put on a Belarus postage stamp for earning an individual bronze. Domracheva could have competed for Russia, having been born in Minsk but raised in the remote western Siberia oil boom town of Nyagan, the birthplace of Maria Sharapova.

She became Belarus’ first female Olympic champion, saying she was “the hope of” Belarus, then was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, “Hero of Belarus.”

After winning her only World Cup overall title in 2015, Domracheva missed the 2015-16 campaign with glandular fever, then in April 2016 announced she and Bjørndalen were in a relationship and having a child.

Domracheva returned to take a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships, then entered PyeongChang ranked fifth in the world. Domracheva struggled early in PyeongChang with finishes of ninth, 37th and 27th before earning mass start silver and relay gold.

Her six career Olympic medals are two more than anybody else from Belarus, and her four golds are double anybody else’s total from her country.

Belarus has only competed independently since the 1994 Lillehammer Games, having previously been part of the Soviet Union. Its top athletes who competed under other flags included gymnasts Olga Korbut (six medals, four golds for the Soviets) and Vitaly Scherbo (six golds in 1992 for the Unified Team; four bronzes in 1996 for Belarus).

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

MORE: Biathlon president steps down after doping raid

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!