The Winter and Summer Olympics always shine a light on sports most of us normally ignore. Curling has become the hot sport during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, generating lots of buzz among sports fans on Web sites like Twitter. Although USA curling will leave Vancouver without coming close to winning a medal, the American public may be more interested in curling than ever.
Before both USA curling teams were officially eliminated from Olympic competition, I had a chance to interview Jan Legacie via email about USA curling and curling in general. Legacie, a member of the United States Curling Association, has been involved with curling in one way or another for several decades. I spoke with Legacie about curling 101, the struggles of USA curling in the 2010 Winter Olympics and unofficial USA curling team captain Vernon Davis.
Briefly introduce yourself to new USA curling fans. What role do you play in the North Dakota curling community?
My name is Jan Legacie and I live in Devils Lake, N.D., My husband and I both curled together in the Edmore, N.D., Curling Club, a small club of about 60 members. Once that closed in 1993, we began curling in the Lake Region Curling Club in Devils Lake and I have been curling there since. My husband and I curled in the Mixed State Competitions in N.D. and were fortunate enough to win the Mixed Nationals in 2001. We both curled and played in many N.D. state competitions and have made it to Nationals (one time for each of us). My husband got into the ice-making side of curling and was hired as the USCA head ice maker in 2005. He passed away from esophageal cancer in 2009. The girls and I continue to curl and do some competing. My youngest daughter attended this year’s Junior Nationals for N.D. in the U.S. and earned the Bronze metal. My other daughters are league curlers. I continue to curl in Devils Lake, N.D., and I am a N.D. Director for the United States Curling Association, in which I attend the two meetings each year to meet with the USCA board to plan and discuss the future of curling. I also assist with the World Team Preparation committee.
It’s been a rough Winter Olympics for USA curling thus far. What can the USA men and women do to turn things around?
It has been a tough time for the USA Olympians, but we, as curlers, encourage both teams to try to finish strong. The men have curled close games and the women have curled to their best. Both teams have good positive attitudes and are very good curlers in my mind.
When the Winter Olympics arrive, the spotlight shines on curling because people completely unfamiliar with it seem to love it. What do you think of the increased attention on curling? Is it good for the sport? Do you see increased interest locally during the Games?
I think that the interest, attention on curling is great and we want to see much, much more of it. We, as curlers, are thrilled that fans are showing great interest and encourage more fans to join our sport. Devils Lake has gotten new curlers this year and it is due to the Olympics and spreading the word. I have heard that Fargo has had calls for new people to curl and also the Twin Cities are getting calls every day to start curling.
John Shuster is having arguably the toughest Olympics of any USA athlete at the moment. What advice would you offer him right now?
John Shuster did have it tough, but curling is a team thing. John had some good draws and the sweepers misjudged some of the sweep, so you can’t blame it all on him. He also was very willing to switch positions, which the USA teammates are willing to do.
Twitter was abuzz with curling talk during the epic Denmark-USA match. How important do you see social marketing in increasing curling’s popularity?
Social marketing is very important to this sport, and the USCA editor who does the curling news for curlers keeps that end of it going and it helps the sport tremendously.
USA men’s curling has suffered heart-breaking defeats but every match was edge-of-your-seat exciting that grabbed the viewer’s attention. In the end, could these losses be good for USA curling?
I don’t think the losses are good for USA curling, but the matches have shown that curling can be an exciting sport that draws attention. Having curling on TV during the Olympics helps the sport, due to the announcers talking about strategy and the calls that the teams make.
How much should a newbie expect to pay to get involved in the sport at a basic level? Equipment costs? Ice time costs? League costs?
In N.D., equipment runs about from $60 on up to $300. It depends on if you want to buy the curling shoes or if you want to wear a clean pair of smooth bottom tennis shoes with a fairly good grip for the ice. There are sliders for your shoes that you would need to buy which run about $15. Some are slip-ons and some are placed on the curling shoe when you buy them. Some clubs will also provide sliders to use. A broom is usually available at the clubs, but if you want your own, you can buy them from $45 to $200 or more. It depends on what type of broom you want. League costs vary from state to state. In N.D. it is about $200 per year for family membership for all the leagues. In the Denver area, where my daughter curls, it is about $300 for 12 weeks of curling (two leagues a week).
What’s your best advice for a newbie who wants to try curling?
For a new person wanting to curl? Get a hold of a curling club member in your city and get to the club to learn about curling. Get into the Learn to Curl clinics, which I know they do in Denver and in some other states, also. We also have curling clinics in N.D. Some people shy away from curling, thinking they are not any good at it. Curling is a sport that encourages new people to join and learn how to curl. It takes a few months to get use to sitting in the hack, shooting the rock, sliding out, sweeping the rocks and following the strategy. You also need to stretch before each game, so your muscles do not get so sore.
How did NFL star Vernon Davis become associated with USA curling?
Terry Kolesar, USCA editor for curling news, heard that Vernon had tried curling and liked it. Terry wrote to the Associated Press and invited him to curl in San Jose. Vernon accepted the invitation and he really liked it. He was eventually asked to be honorary captain of the Olympic team.
Poker, spelling bees, billiards and bowling are on TV and none of these sports/activities is as exciting as curling. What can I, a curling fan, do to get curling competitions on weekly sports television in the U.S.?
I think the best way you can get curling competitions on weekly sports television in the U.S. is to get a sponsor for the weekly programming. You can also contact Rick Patske at 888-287-5377, head of USCA, to answer any of the other particular questions that you have. We all are trying to promote this sport and whatever advertising or press we can get to promote curling is great. The USCA has been looking for a great sponsor for this sport and for USA curling. We, as curlers in the USA, are one big curling family and we all support each other. We love to have fun and it is a gentleman’s game with great sportsmanship. Both the young and the old can curl together. Some of our newer 20-year-old curlers are surprised that they can get beat by a 10-year-old who has curled for a while. It is also a great way to get to know people. Our bonspiels (curling tournaments on weekends) are also a great way to get into curling games and learn more about this great sport.
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