U.S. curler Debbie McCormick is a three-time Olympian and 2003 world champion who served as the skip for the United States in 2010.
McCormick, who is in town for the Triangle Curling Club’s weekend Carolina Classic Bonspiel, supports her Olympic curling by selling curling equipment, and dragged her mobile pro-shop trailer behind her pickup all the way from Wisconsin.
It’s a labor of love, but the Olympic rewards are worth it, although her team has yet to claim one of the four spots in the Olympic trials for 2014, with two spots still available in February’s national championships.
She spoke with The N&O on Friday about watching the Olympics and the future of curling in the United States.
Q. Curling has become a tremendously popular sport for television viewers during the Winter Olympics. Is there a sport that’s a little outside of the mainstream in the Summer Olympics that you like to watch?
A. I love to watch the Olympics, and just to kind of feel what the athletes are going through and have felt that myself, like when they talk about the Opening Ceremonies and Closing Ceremonies, or just to know how hard they train, how much pressure is on them as far as media and family and friends
As far as sports, my favorite sports to watch are swimming, because I swam in high school so I know the times and stuff, and I’m always just amazed at the times that they’re pulling through. Yesterday, I watched archery for the first time, and that was really exciting. My husband’s a huge bow-hunter, so it gave me a new perspective on archery. I watched judo, which I was so excited the U.S. woman won. I also watched a little bit of table tennis. Those are some of the sports I hadn’t watched in the past.
Of course, being a girl, (I) love gymnastics. It’s amazing what they can do. I just love the Olympics in general, to watch. I had a dream to get to the Olympics, watching the Olympics as a little girl.
Q. Did participating in the Olympics change the way you watch, now that you’ve been there?
A. I still get a thrill out of it. I think what’s changed for me is going through the whole process, and I’ve been through it three times. Every Olympic experience is different. There’s highs, there’s lows, it’s like a roller coaster, lots of emotions.
Watching the Opening Ceremonies and the Closing Ceremonies, listening to their interviews, I feel close to what they’re saying. When they say, “You can’t describe it in words,” I remember saying that, too. You can’t describe it in words. There are no words for what you’re going through at an Olympic Games.
Q. When they grab someone right after an event to talk on TV, after a big win or a bad routine or something, do you flash back to being grabbed without any time to process this stuff?
A. Definitely. The last Olympics, there’s the mixed zone, the media zone, and you’re not allowed to walk away from it. You have to go through it. It just takes a lot of strength if you’ve had a bad game or a bad match, or when you’re disappointed in yourself, to suck it in. Always hold your head high – you’re an Olympian, you’re playing for your country. It is tough. In any sport, there’s tears, there’s lots of joy. You just have to dig deep and be tough. When it goes well, it’s fun to talk to the media.
After gymnastics, I can’t remember the girl’s name, that didn’t make it to the all-around? (Jordyn Wieber.) I felt for her, because in 2010 we had a lot of games where it just didn’t go our way, and we didn’t win, and I kind of felt her pain. And then to see athletes that are so excited, you feel that too.
Q. So we’re two years out from the Winter Olympics, and it seems like every four years, the profile of curling in the United States, we see that bump. Where are we in terms of curling in the United States, where should we be based on the last two Olympics and where should we be in 2014?
A. Curling in general is still growing in the United States. It’s so exciting. Here we are in North Carolina, curling. Ten years ago, the Southern states didn’t even know what curling was. So that’s exciting to see it grow.
As far as our athletes, I feel like the competition is getting stronger and stronger. There’s a lot of athletes that are coming through that are very strong, very dedicated. They work super hard. Last year at nationals, our team had a disappointing finish, and it kind of opened our eyes that some of these young athletes we think of as juniors, they’re 26 or 27 now. They’re not juniors anymore. They know what they’re doing. So the competition is hopefully getting better and better, women’s side and men’s side.
Q. It sounds like it’s completely different than it was even 10 years ago.
A. It is. My first Olympics was 1998, so I think about the Japan games compared to Vancouver, that’s over 10 years. The competition is so much better. The ice conditions are so much better. Coaching is so much better. Before we’d work out, but we’d kind of do what we wanted. Now it’s specific. We’ve got coaches on our butts asking, “What did you do?” and watching you work out. It’s great. It makes you better.
Q. What has to happen next, for the U.S. teams and for the sport in general in this country? What would you like to see?
A. It would be great if our athletes could medal at the world championships and Olympics. Everyone loves a winner. Everyone loves to see medals. With the Olympic Committee, that means more funding for U.S. curling, more funding for the athletes. That’s the main goal, is to be on the podium at the world championships and the Olympics.
Also, when it’s on television, it’s going to be on TV more hopefully if we win some medals, and with that, curling would really grow. If we can get it on television, even just to show the national championships, world championships, the major events, the sport will just take off.
Even now it’s growing and it’s not on television. I can only imagine if it was on TV. Every four years after it’s on TV in the Olympics, all the curling clubs get lines out the door with people who just want to try it.
Q. So it all comes down to results?
A. In 2006, the men’s team got a bronze, which is great. But out of the last four Olympics, that’s the only medal U.S. curlers have gotten. The competition is tough. It’s really tough out there.
For a lot of countries, it’s a lot different than the U.S. The Chinese and Russians live in Canada and train all winter. Our athletes, we have to hold jobs. We have families. It’s just a different world. I feel like we’re all working very hard, and doing all that we can, so hopefully that hard work will pay off for the athletes and the team.
DeCock: firstname.lastname@example.org, (919) 829-8947, Twitter: @LukeDeCock