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Women in Sports: Q&A with USA Women’s Olympic Curler Tabitha Peterson

I recently had the opportunity to chat with U.S women’s curler Tabitha Peterson, who just got back from the Winter Olympics in Pyeong Chang. I wanted to gain insight on this rising sport in popularity, as well as learn more about Tabitha’s career.

Sam Mushman (DoubleGSports): Thanks again for joining me Tabitha. Right off the bat, I have always enjoyed watching the sport of curling during the Winter Olympics. What influences had gotten you into curling at a early age?

Tabitha Peterson: My grandpa was a curler from Canada, so it was certainly in my family. In the beginning, it was mainly a man’s sport. Because of the drinking and smoking that would go along with it, not many women felt welcome in the sport.

When I started 19 years ago, there was just one curling club in the twin cities area. The only way we heard of the club, was my mom’s friend played in a curling league, and had offered us to come try it! So my family ended up joining the curling club, while I entered the junior program. We would go every Saturday morning, and I got on a team that would start traveling the area. Ultimately we made the junior nationals, and it just went from there.

Its funny, because most the people in my life didn’t know what curling was. Because of the Winter Olympics, the sport continues to grow in popularity.

Sam: The sport is really its own enigma. When it’s all over tv every four years, people cant seem to get enough of it! Was there a point in time while you were coming up, that you knew you were especially good at curling? Did you then want to pursue it on a more serious level?

Tabitha: I think the turning point was when my 16-under team won the Minnesota state, and we went to the junior nationals. That was a really awesome experience for a 16-year old. At the same time not a whole lot of people play curling. Compared to soccer (my other favorite sport), there are always tons of great players, so I saw a bigger opportunity to excel in curling.

Sam: From watching your team play, I see you were the skip. Many people I think are unsure about the sweepers, and how they are affecting the game. Are they helping the shot stay straight? Or is there job to make the stone travel farther?

Tabitha: So there are four positions. The skip, the vice skip, the second and the lead. Nina is the skip and I’m the vice skip. She controls where we are throwing the stones. I sweep the first few, and then I call the shots when Nina throws. The other two players are throwing and sweeping.

Sweeping does make the stone go further. You can make it go up to 10 feet further with good sweepers. Sweeping melts the ice while reducing friction, but also hold’s the stone on a tighter line. Every time you throw a stone you put either a clockwise or counter clockwise turn on it. Whichever way the stone’s turning, is also the direction the stone will curl. Hence the name curling.

(Photo provided by Tabitha Peterson)

Sam: A big thing I’m curious about is preparation leading up to the match. Can you dive into the physical and mental training that is involved, especially for the Olympics?

Tabitha: Within the USA curling word we have a “high performance program” which is essentially the national team. We have a full coaching staff, athletic trainer and sports psychologist, all helping us train for the Olympics. During the summer off season, we have a work out regimen that consist of more lifting weights and less cardio. During the season its more cardio and maintaining strength. On weekends we travel for tournaments, sometimes playing up to nine games in four days.

Sam: It seems like balance is a major component? Especially for the sweepers, who are literally sliding down the ice while sweeping. How important is the training of balance on the ice?

Tabitha: It’s really just repetition and perfecting the sliding motion. We watch a lot of film on our sliding technique, to help perfect our form. We also work a lot on how we’re releasing the stone, and putting the right turn on it. Its about making sure you and your teammates are doing all this exactly the same. If one thing is off on the release, that will directly affect not only the success of the sweepers, but where the stone ultimately lands. Our trainer also incorporates balance exercises in the weight room too.

Sam: Lets briefly talk about your experience in Pyeong Chang. Was there some time to see the country and surrounding area? Or was this a business trip from start to finish?

Tabitha: We were there for a very long time, and had a few days to get acclimated and see the village before our first game. As a team we went to a speed skating event, and doing other fun things made the experience that much sweeter. When we were done playing, there was a few days before the closing ceremonies. I went exploring with my family and boyfriend, as we saw the coast and had to chance to try some traditional Korean BBQ!

One thing I love about all this is seeing the culture. Also meeting people from other areas and learning more about them, are fun and special to me.

Sam: Lastly, how has the sport of curling grown in popularity, not only in the last ten years, but where do you see it going in the future?

Tabitha: I like that the sport is growing in interest, and the men’s team getting gold was so amazing for curling in the U.S.A!

The sport of curling is unique in that when televised, we are wearing microphones. You can literally hear everything we’re saying, and I think people really like that element, especially during the Olympics. Also, the money and success U.S.A curling has recently acquired, gives more funding and allows us to go to more tournaments. The sport is not cheap, so funding is huge and will hopefully continue to help the U.S.A move even further up in the world rankings.

Its one of those sports when people see it, they want to go try it. Now, there are six curling clubs in just the twin cities area, and they are all sold out with memberships. The phones have been off the hook with people calling to book corporate events, and for more opportunity to try the sport.

Sam: It’s been fun to watch the sport grow the way it has, and I would love to try curling myself sometime soon! Tabitha, thank you again for taking the time to chat, and best of luck and continued success in the future!

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Sam is a College Basketball Analyst here at A former Division II collegiate basketball player himself, Sam is the broadcast personality of Queens College Sports Network "QCSN"
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