Curlers Tout Lifetime Sport
NAGANO, Japan (AP) _ One trains on cheeseburgers and meatloaf, another on spaghetti and pizza. Two are married fathers of four. Another awaits a kidney transplant.
It sounds like the company bowling team. In reality, it’s the U.S. Olympic curling team, as curious and non-conformist as the quirky sport it plays.
``It’s one of the few Olympic sports you can play a lifetime,″ said Lisa Schoeneberg, who, at 25, would be years past her prime in figure skating but is a relative youngster in curling. ``I don’t know another Olympic sport you can play with your father and mother _ or, like me, my 93-year-old grandmother. It’s a lifelong sport.″
It’s also one sport many Americans go a lifetime without witnessing, and will likely miss even as it makes its Olympic debut following four appearances as a demonstration sport.
CBS doesn’t plan to televise curling during its more than 160 hours of coverage, although the team will appear on David Letterman’s show.
Of course, it might take many of those hours to fully explain a peculiar discipline where broom-wielding athletes sweep a 42-pound stone with a handle into a 12-foot circle known as the house.
See, Michael Jordan isn’t the only athlete who takes it to the house. Olympic curler Mike Peplinski does too, even if his yearly winnings don’t amount to the meal money Jordan pockets on a single road trip.
But to those who take up curling, it often becomes an obsession like golf, the sport to which it is often compared because of its strategy, concentration and shot-making.
Peplinski, for example, proposed to wife Michelle by spelling out ``Will you marry me?″ in curling stones at his club in Eau Claire, Wis. He is also waiting until April for his kidney transplant so he can compete in the Nagano Games.
And there’s Erika Brown, who couldn’t find a curling stone down at her local Toys ‘R’ Us in Madison, Wis., so she improvised by practicing with Kleenex boxes and ashtrays.
There are few facilities outside Wisconsin and Minnesota, so most curlers begin by playing with family members at local clubs _ some of which have existed for 150 years. Many still play weekly at those clubs to stay in competition shape for weekend trips to major meets in Canada, where the sport is so popular that it’s nationally televised.
The Olympians come mostly from two Wisconsin-based teams, Team Somerville (men) and Team Schoeneberg (women), who play together virtually the year around.
``The teams that play together beat the all-star teams at the national championships,″ U.S. men’s coach Tom Casper said. ``It takes a long time playing together to get good.″
But in a sport where teamwork is everything, staying in shape physically is mostly up to the individual. Results often vary.
Most jog and lift weights to build endurance for matches that can last three hours. But Myles Brundidge, who at 5-11 and 215 has a bowler’s build, professes a weakness for greasy burgers and his wife’s meatloaf. John Gordon, who will be 40 next month, likes to train on pizza and potato chips.
``I’m not as much a health nut as some others,″ Brundidge said.
Both U.S. teams have medal aspirations, but must open Monday’s competition in Karuizawa, Japan, against the defending world champions _ Canada (men) and Sweden (women).
``It’s great to do something you love with the people you love,″ said team member Erika Brown, whose father, Steve, is the women’s coach. ``It would be even greater to win a medal.″