While Nina Roth and siblings Becca and Matt Hamilton are excited for their trip to PyeongChang, South Korea, they’re trying not to think of the enormity of the competition they’re entering.

The three McFarland natives will compete on the U.S. curling team in the 23rd Winter Olympics, which start Feb. 9.

“The more I think about it, the more I think it’s going to build anxiety and nervousness,” Matt Hamilton said.

After practicing at the Madison Curling Club for more than a decade — in Roth’s case two decades — and dozens of national and international competitions, the three hope to just play like they would at any other competition.

In a curling match, a player slides a heavy stone across a sheet of course-textured ice toward a target. Other players use brooms to rub smoother surfaces on the ice to let the stone glide more smoothly and hopefully into the center of the target without overshooting it.

The Hamiltons will fly out to Japan for a week Tuesday, and Roth leaves Thursday. The stint in Japan will help them get accustomed to the 15-hour time difference and allow more time to practice with other Team USA members.

Roth said the trip to the Olympics feels like her career coming “full circle.” She competed in the 2006 World Junior Curling Championship in Jeonju, South Korea, and she looks forward to going back.

“We’ve been working towards being Olympians for so, so long now,” Roth said of her team, which includes Becca Hamilton along with Tabitha Peterson, Aileen Geving and Cory Christensen.

Becca and Matt Hamilton will compete together in the mixed doubles competition, and Matt Hamilton is also on the men’s team along with John Shuster, John Landsteiner, Joe Polo and Tyler George.

“Honestly, I have pretty high expectations,” Matt Hamilton said. “I’m hoping to come home with two medals. I have really high expectations for mixed doubles because I don’t think there’s any reason we can’t come home with a gold.”

While curling might not seem like the most exciting sport for some spectators, each match is a battle of strategy, not just brawn.

Matt Hamilton said he was drawn to curling for “the fact that you can outsmart your opponent instead of outplay them and still win.”

And it definitely isn’t as easy as it looks.

“I have a lot of people tell me, ‘Oh, curling looks so easy. I could do that,’” Roth said. “People who say that I make it look easy, I always want to say to them, ‘Well you come try it, and I’ll talk to you the next day when every part of your body is sore.’”

McFarland State Bank held a celebration of the athletes Saturday complete with photos and autographs with Roth and the Hamiltons, who were sent off with a performance by the UW-Madison Marching Band.

“They’re part of the family,” the bank’s marketing director, Tracy Brooks, said. “It just seemed right that we take the next step and say, ‘Hey, let’s have a party for you.’”

Hundreds of residents came to wish them luck with more sending congratulations over the past week, which Matt Hamilton said has been overwhelming and humbling.

“I think we’ve met probably every single person that lives here,” Becca Hamilton said. “It’s been awesome to see this small village come together.”


Shelley K. Mesch is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She earned a degree in journalism from DePaul University.