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'It's our turn now.' US women's curling team finds inspiration from men's success

USA TODAY SPORTS 2/13/2022 Dan Wolken, USA TODAY

BEIJING – It was a massive surprise when the U.S. won the men’s gold medal in curling four years ago, reversing what had been a frustrating track record in the sport since it was added to the Olympic program in 1998.

But nowhere has it been a bigger source of inspiration than for the women’s side of the U.S. curling team.

“We want that gold medal,” said Nina Roth, who was the team’s skipper in 2018 and returned this time as the vice skip. “The guys won it four years ago, it’s our turn now.”

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The odds are still against such a dramatic breakthrough for Team USA, but it’s at least within the realm of possibility after five games of group play. Despite a 10-4 loss to Sweden on Sunday, the U.S. sits at 3-2 and in a three-way tie for third with four games remaining. The top four will advance to the semifinals.

“If you had told us we’d be 3-2 at this point I think we would have been happy,” skipper Tabitha Peterson said. “We’ve played some tough teams the last two days. We just have to play a little sharper, put a little more pressure on the teams we’re playing and hopefully that will get us a few more wins going forward.”

Already, the U.S. is on a trajectory for its best Olympic performance in quite some time. In fact, the Americans have finished with a winning record in group play just once and finished a combined 5-22 in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

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Roth and Peterson came onto the scene in Pyeongchang and showed some improvement with a 4-5 mark, but the experience was an eye-opener in terms of the level of competition and mental concentration it takes to get through the Olympic grind.

“It showed some things we needed to work on,” Roth said. “We made some adjustments, spent a lot of time with our sports psychologist and we knew what to expect coming in.”

One of the adjustments, Peterson said, was to work on team dynamics and communication. Curling, after all, is a sport where players are constantly making suggestions to each other before shots and then yelling directions to the sweepers as the stones track toward their intended targets.

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“I think we’ve matured a lot,” Peterson said. “We’ve definitely come together more as a unit. We’re all very much on the same page, and just knowing that we all have a common goal makes it easier to understand each other. Now we take everything that goes on out there as facts and don’t take anything personally. Most of it is just maturity.”

That has led to year-over-year improvement to top 10 in the world rankings and more competitive showings against the top teams, including a bronze medal in the World Curling Championships last year.

After the U.S. missed an opportunity against Sweden to really solidify its place in the top four, it will have key games coming up Monday against 2018 silver medalist South Korea and Tuesday against Switzerland, which is 5-0 so far and the reigning world champion.

“I think we’re on the right trajectory for sure,” Peterson said. “We’ll just stick with our process. We’re not going to do anything different. We’ll assess what happened out there, learn from anything that we need to and come out firing (Monday).”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'It's our turn now.' US women's curling team finds inspiration from men's success

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