“We didn’t really have a choice,” says Tom Howell about how he and his USA teammate, Korey Dropkin, got into the sport - both grew up with parents “hooked” on curling.
Thankfully, all those hours spent at the curling club from a young age paid off, with the USA making it to the quarter-finals at the first Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Innsbruck 2012 and more recently competing alongside the world’s top 10 men’s teams at the World Junior Championships in Sochi, Russia, an event which doubled as a test event for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Playing in a future Olympic venue has helped the two dream big, as Tom explained: “Playing in a test event for the Olympics is pretty amazing. Seeing the construction around it is pretty cool as well. It’s something many people won’t see. It’s cool being in the locker room and knowing that in just under one year the best curlers in the world will be sitting here.”
But it was the YOG that planted that initial seed, says Korey: “The Youth Olympics set the inspiration for us. Being able to experience what we experienced in Austria makes us strive to get to that next level and to get to the actual Olympics. Everything we learnt there was amazing so I can only imagine what it’d be like to do that again and at a higher level.”
Another curler who sees the YOG as the catalyst for their success in the sport is New Zealand’s Kelsi Heath, whose journey from Young Olympian to the women’s senior national team has been rapid.
Speaking fondly about her experience, she says: “The Youth Olympics was one of the most important experiences of my life. I’ll remember it forever. I have memories from there that will never fade away. It was a great opportunity to get better at my sport and meet people from all over the world and experience different cultures.”
To learn more about these young stars and find out more about the sport, visit: www.worldcurling.org. Carry on curling!