Every four years millions of Olympic spectators around the world become enthralled with the men and women strategically sliding 44-pound curling stones down a sheet of ice towards a giant bull’s eye known as a “house” with teammates enthusiastically sweeping ahead of its path in order to affect speed and direction.
In fact, 7.5 million people watched the men’s gold medal game at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics where Team USA dramatically defeated Sweden to capture America’s first-ever gold in the sport.
Ahead of the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, Team USA athletes will be donning a different look thanks to Columbia Sportswear, who today is welcomed as a new multi-year sponsorship of USA Curling. Columbia will work closely with USA Curling’s men’s, women’s, junior’s and wheelchair national teams as they train and participate in competitions around the world in the buildup to the upcoming Winter Games.
“The level of support and commitment from Columbia is fantastic,” USA Curling CEO Jeff Plush said. “Frankly, it’s going to be transformational for our organization. To partner with an American company who has such a commitment to performance but also to the quality of their product is fantastic for us and will bear a lot of fruit for us over the next handful of years.”
Team USA will debut its new competitive uniforms on Curling Night in America, a tournament featuring the U.S., Denmark, Germany and Canada, airing on NBC Sports Network beginning Sunday, September 19.
“We look at this as an opportunity to really bring a lot of our great innovations to the team and showcase them on the ice, whether it’s technology around keeping people warm or keeping them more comfortable,” Columbia Brand president Joe Boyle said. “We have a unique proposition of outdoor product technology we think can be really unique to what the curling team can use, and we’re looking forward to launching a unique technology with the team over the next year and hope to have at the Olympics in Beijing.”
Popular in Canada and across Europe, curling’s interest and popularity grew exponentially around the U.S. following Team USA’s success at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Beneficiaries of the round robin tiebreaker over Great Britain and Switzerland, Team USA was awarded the third seed in the four-team men’s semifinal. The Americans toppled defending gold medalists Canada 5-3, before beating Sweden 10-7 to win gold.
As a result, viewership of the web stream of USA Curling’s National Championships has increased 316% year-over-year, while curling clubs are popping up in towns and cities from Orlando to Los Angeles, Austin, Texas, and everywhere in between. USA Curling oversees 200 clubs across the country.
“There’s no question there’s an appetite for our sport,” Plush said. “It’s our job and responsibility and frankly, opportunity, to make it more visible every year, not just during an Olympic year, and people like Columbia help us do that. It’s really changing how people view our sport, see our organization and see these athletes. It’s very exciting for us.”
Team USA skip John Shuster, whose dramatic double take-out in the eighth end of the gold medal game helped the U.S. turn the tide against Sweden in 2018, is excited about the support from a brand like Columbia.
Like any other sport, curlers require certain functionality and features in apparel for optimal performance on the ice. Shuster said pants that have four-way stretch and aren’t too thick or thin are essential, while having moisture-wicking tops are also necessary to remain cool, calm and collected, especially on a global stage like the Olympics.
“They’re trying to make sure they get everything to the absolute best specifications for us for performance on the ice,” said Shuster, who won bronze at the 2006 Games in Torino. “To see the commitment they’ve put towards that is unlike anything I’ve seen in my career, and it’s kind of a long career. I’m really excited to be working with a company with that level of commitment to the athletes.
“… Along with being able to perform out there, we want to put our sport in the best light every time we get a chance to be under the lights.”
While USA Curling teams know what they’ll be wearing in Beijing next winter, who exactly will be donning the new Columbia Sportswear gear is still to be determined. The USA Curling Olympic Trials take place from November 12-21 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Team Shuster, comprised of John Shuster, Chris Plys, Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner, will be one of six teams vying for the lone coveted spot to represent the United States at the Olympics on the men’s side, along with Team Dropkin (Korey Dropkin, Joe Polo, Mark Fenner, Tom Howell, Alex Fenson), Team Brundidge (Jed Brundidge, Evan Workin, Cameron Rittenour, Lance Wheeler, Nic Wagner), Team Ruohonen (Rich Ruohonen, Andrew Stopera, Colin Hufman, Kroy Nernberger, and Phil Tilker) and two others to be determined via Trials Qualifying Series.
On the women’s side, the qualified teams so far are: Team Peterson (Tabitha Peterson, Nina Roth, Tara Peterson, Becca Hamilton, Aileen Geving), Team Christensen (Cory Christensen, Sarah Anderson, Vicky Persinger, Taylor Anderson), Team Sinclair (Jamie Sinclair, Monica Walker, Cora Farrell, Elizabeth Cousins) and Team Bear (Madison Bear, Annmarie Dubberstein, Taylor Drees, Allison Howell).
The 2022 Winter Olympics will be February 4-20, 2022, in Beijing, China.
“We’ve been building our national program over the last eight years to have athletes ready to perform on the biggest stage, and our result (in 2018) was just the result of exactly that,” Shuster said. “Hopefully our team can go and perform the way we need to to get back to the Olympics. … With the work our national team has put in since our gold medal, any team that’s going to show up at the Olympics is going to be there and have a chance to do just that. Every team Team USA sends has a shot of getting back on the podium.”