Tom Sorensen

U.S. is a longshot in so many Winter Olympics sports. Is curling just misunderstood?

I don’t watch figure skating. I don’t watch luge. I watch very little hockey. But every four years the athletes that populate those sports get their opportunity, so of course I watch the Winter Olympics.

There is only one sport in which the U.S. has never won a medal and that’s the biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing and shooting. It’s an odd sport because you work to move. And then you stop, and attain calm and fire.

The Nordic countries dominate the sport. I’m part Danish, but all I know about that part of the world is what I see on “Lilyhammer,” the fine Netflix show that featured Steven Van Zandt, late of Bruce Springsteen and of the “Sopranos.”

Some countries emphasize biathlon. The U.S. does not. But we do have two potential medal winners, Lowell Bailey and Susan Dunklee. If you guessed the state from which they come, you’d be correct. It’s Vermont.

I’ve always liked underdogs and most of the athletes that will represent the U.S in Pyeongchang, South Korea are dark horses.

The Olympics begin Thursday and end Feb. 25 and include 15 sports and 102 events.

How many U.S. athletes can you name? We all know Shaun White. Most of us have seen his snowboard artistry and adventures. The beauty of the Winter Olympics is that the athletes that work quietly and in the shadows and collect very little attention or money suddenly are discovered.

By Feb. 25, we’ll know the speed skaters and hockey players and perhaps the curlers.

RussianCurler.jpg
Curling, which begins Thursday, is to the Winter Olympics what race walking is to the Summer Olympics. We all believe we can do it. Aaron Favila AP

Curling, which begins Thursday, is to the Winter Olympics what race walking is to the Summer Olympics. We all believe we can do it.

In curling you push a stone that weighs 38 to 44 pounds toward a target. You can sweep the ice in front of it. I watched people play it in northern Minnesota.

Watch some sports on TV and you think, “That looks easy.” Then you see right in front of you and say, “Whoa, that doesn’t look easy.”

After watching curling on the ice in front of me I thought, “That still looks easy.”

I was going to try out for the Olympic team but never got around to it. The 2022 Winter Olympics are in Beijing. So maybe I try out for that U.S. team.

This year, I’ll watch. You have to watch curling. Even if you don’t know the rules – and you don’t, and I don’t and almost nobody else does – you still become mesmerized. If I owned a bar, I’d put it on the big screen.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills have Charlotte bars that cater to them. Curling should, too. Let me know. I’m there. ...

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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