Imagine an activity that requires balance, coordination, and teamwork, and you’d think it would be a sport right? What if that activity was curling? Curling is a sport that not many people know about, and maybe that’s why there is some debate as to whether curling is a sport. Despite looking easy on television, curling is incredibly difficult—one of the reasons it's in the Olympics.
Nina Roth will represent the U.S. as the skip—or captain—at the Olympics in South Korea next month. Along with three teammates, Roth will try to throw a 40-pound round, granite stone as close as possible to the house, or target.
The U.S. has only won one medal in curling, a bronze in 2006. Roth, who led her team to a fifth-place finish at the world championships last year, is hoping to change that.
Roth spoke with SI Kids about her preparation for the Games, her love of curling, and cheeseheads.
How did you get into the sport of curling?
It was something that my dad used to do when we were kids and then I was in Girl Scouts and my mom thought that it would be cool to take my Girl Scout troop to try curling. So I tried it with my Girl Scout troop and I just fell in love with it. I thought this is the coolest thing, I want to do this, this is my sport.
Who is your top competition?
A few different countries but Canada would be one of them. They have a lot of curlers in Canada and a lot of good curlers, and then Scotland has been a top team, and probably Sweden as well.
What’s the most interesting place you’ve traveled to for competitions? Why?
Probably where I am going again for the Olympics, Korea. I’ve been there twice. I was there in 2006. I played in the Junior World Championships in Seoul. And, just a few years ago, I played in a tournament in Korea as well. It was my first trip to Asia, so first experience in a whole different culture, getting used to that and immersing myself in a different culture was really fun and interesting for me. They have something called Korean barbecue, which is where you sit around this fire pit and they give you raw meat and different sides and lettuce wraps and everyone sits around and cooks their meal. It’s delicious. So, Korean barbecue is kind of a favorite of mine. I am excited to go back.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened while playing the sport?
My teammates are hilarious on the ice all the time. Probably when we say things on the microphones that other people shouldn’t hear. Sometimes our coaches will listen into our games, and one time we forgot we were on the microphone and we were talking about our coach and wondering what soup he was eating, and he looked at us and held up his soup and made us laugh because he reminded us that we were on the microphone and he could hear everything that we were saying.
So, they wear mics during the game?
Yup, a lot of times, especially when we broadcast. It’s very unique to other sports. You can hear everything we are saying when you are watching us on TV, all of our communication with our teammates which makes it all that much more interesting for people to watch.
My biggest fan would have to be my mom. I’ve been curling for about 20 years and she has been with me every step of the way, and she’s been a great support, always telling me that I can do it throughout my life.
What are your favorite winter sports to watch or play other than curling?
Well, being from Wisconsin, we like our football, big Packer and Badger fans. When I go to the Olympics, I hope I get to see the bobsledders because I’ve worked out with them in the gym. They are really great athletes, and I’d just love to watch them perform.
Do you wear a cheesehead hat at football games?
Yes, I do. Yup, we have cheesehead hats, and cheese-shaped cup holders and can koozies and everything. So, we’re all cheesed out in my house. [We’re] real fans of the green and gold, yup!
When did you first set your sights on being in the Olympics?
It happened early on. When I was [young] I fell in love with the sport and we had quite a few Olympians at the time that were playing in the Madison Curling Club, and so I watched them play, and they would invite me to practice with them. [They] encouraged me at a very young age. I saw them and I was inspired and in awe of what they were doing. I wanted to be competitive and hopefully, someday make it to the Olympics.
What are you most looking forward to about the Olympics?
I am really looking forward to playing with my team. We’ve worked really hard for this. So, this is my opportunity to play with my girls and show the world what we can do.
Photographs by (from top): Ron Jenkins/Getty Images; Hannah Peters/Getty Image