Team Peterson Wins Olympic Curling Trials To Book Place In Winter Olympics
by Todd Kortemeier
Tabitha and Tara Peterson celebrate at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Curling on Nov. 20, 2021 in Omaha, Neb.
OMAHA, Neb. — The 2017 champions of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling have a new name and a new member in 2021, but the result is identical — they’re going back to the Olympic Games.
Skip Tabitha Peterson and teammates Nina Roth, Becca Hamilton and Tara Peterson topped Team Christensen Saturday night to sweep their best-of-three series and the earn the Olympic berth that comes with it. The winning moment came when skip Cory Christensen’s last rock in the eighth end hit off the mark and resulted in a steal of one for Peterson. Handshakes soon followed and Team Peterson kicked off the celebration.
Team Peterson — which also includes alternate Aileen Geving — was the best team all week at Baxter Arena, losing just a single game in double round robin play. They scored the most points, won the most ends and capitalized on the most mistakes, notching 16 stolen ends. The 2020 national champions and 2021 world bronze medalists are certainly in some kind of rhythm that’s carrying them to Beijing.
“We’re definitely groovin’,” said Tabitha Peterson. “We’ve put a lot of work in and like all our pre- and post-game meetings were just trying to get better and better and learn from every game and go that extra inch each time and so we’re just kind of seeing the reaps of all our hard work right now.”
Members of Team Peterson celebrate after winning Game 2 of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Curling on Nov. 20, 2021 in Omaha, Neb.
Four years ago in Omaha, nearly to the day, it was Roth who was the skip, with Peterson at third, Geving at second and Hamilton at lead. That also was the lineup in PyeongChang, where Team Roth finished in eighth place. Peterson stepped in as skip in 2020 as Roth went on maternity leave. Also entering the team was Peterson’s younger sister Tara as Geving moved to alternate.
“Of course we’re playing as a team and trying to do this for each other but I think it feels extra special having her and it’s her first Olympics so doing it for her feels amazing,” Tabitha said. “We’re excited to kind of put on a better showing than we did last time and we feel like we have a really good chance to be on the (Olympic) podium this year.”
Where Game 1 Friday between the two teams was a back-and-forth affair, Saturday night’s saw Team Peterson steal one in the two opening ends to gain control. Team Christensen briefly took the lead 2-1 in the third only to give up three in the fourth and Peterson never looked back in winning 9-4.
“I think we got off to a little bit of a slow start, just weren’t executing as well as we needed to really to win the game,” Christensen said. “I think it just came down to execution. Tab’s team played great.”
The Petersons weren’t the only curling siblings competing Saturday, as Hamilton’s brother Matt scored a big win with Team Shuster as they kept their Olympic dreams alive in evening their series with Team Dropkin. After getting off to a rough start in Game 1 Friday night, Shuster rallied to win a tense 7-3 game that was much closer than the score.
L-R) John Landsteiner, Matt Hamilton, Chris Plys and John Shuster celebrate after winning Game 2 of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Curling on Nov. 20, 2021 in Omaha, Neb.
“I’m pretty mentally exhausted right now,” said Team Shuster third Chris Plys. “That’s a really good curling team over there. The way that they were playing us it was tough to stay patient. We just knew, yesterday we learned our lesson with leaving their rocks in the rings like they like to do. It was tough to be patient but we stuck to our gameplan and we just came out with a ton more energy today. Yesterday they were walking all over us so we wanted to kind of switch that up on them.”
Team Dropkin again got on the scoreboard first, but Shuster —and teammates Plys, Hamilton and John Landsteiner — did a better job of limiting the chances for Korey Dropkin. The game turned in the sixth end when Dropkin, up 2-1, went for an ambitious try at a big end in an effort to put the game away. But the shot didn’t quite land and instead it was a steal of two for Shuster.
“The other shot would’ve been just drawing … still would’ve been up two after that, could’ve done that, I think we saw an opportunity to win the game right there so we took it,” Dropkin said. “It was a fairly, I wouldn’t say simple shot but it’s a shot that I should make more times than not. It happens, we move on and we look forward to getting out there tomorrow and giving them our best game.”
Sunday’s winner-take-all game is a sort of sequel to four years ago, when most of Team Shuster completed a comeback of its own by beating a team skipped by Heath McCormick that also included Dropkin (and Plys). It’s a bitter memory for Dropkin, and a point of inspiration for Shuster.
“It’s insane that seven of the eight people that are on the ice playing out there were playing in this same series the last time we were here,” Shuster said. “We all have experience playing in these games. So we’re just going to come out here and have some fun tomorrow and hopefully come out on the right side.”
“(The 2017 final is) a match that burned quite a bit,” Dropkin said. “And that’s honestly one of those things that just kind of fueled the fire. That’s what’s helped build my commitment and really my hunger to win — our hunger to win. We’re here, we want it, and it’s all part of the journey."