Sidetracked: Curling Vancouver By Way of Wisconsin


By: Melissa S. Wollering

Five women have spent the last five months competing in nine tournaments around the world with a total of five kids to worry about back home.  Their objective?  One gold medal from Vancouver.

Wisconsin has a chance to see its very own Debbie McCormick skip for Team USA, after Debbie helped her team win the 2010 Olympic Curling Trials all the way back in February of 2009. Since then, the women’s training has consisted of seven curling camps in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Park City, Utah and Luzern, Switzerland. Not far if you consider the 4,431 mile trip home to Rio (pronounced RYE-OH), Wisconsin a short one.

“My curling team is made up of five very different personalities!” says McCormick.  “Tracy is a very supportive and kind person.  The kind of person you could go to for advice on anything.”

Tracy Sachtjen is the alternate on Team USA.  Sachtjen could take part in the Olympics if someone on the team gets hurt or becomes ill.  Still, Sachtjen is very much a part of the equation.  She practices with the team, works out with them and travels with them to every tournament.  Tracy is also a mother of two children, Sierra (16) and Desmond (9).

Lead and second lead on the team are Natalie Nicholson and Nicole Joraanstad.  While Natalie (also mom to 18 month-old Stella) gives her teammates a good laugh whenever it’s needed, Nicole keeps the women organized and on-schedule.

“Nicole is a very self-driven and hard worker,” says McCormick. “Nicole is a very organized person and she is usually in charge of logistics. [She keeps track of the] flights for our team.  We would still be lost in an airport if it were not for her; she keeps us all organized!

Organization must come natural to Nicole.  In addition to all the time she spends training, she is planning her wedding for this summer.  Her bridesmaids?  You guessed it, Team USA; which also includes another mother of two with girls both under the age of three—Allison Pottinger.

“Allison is very intense and fiery on the ice, she keeps us focused,” says McCormick.  “Allison is very inspiring. She seems to balance her carrier, curling, work-outs and two very active children with ease.”

Debbie, Natalie, Nicole, Allison and Tracy have spent the last year working with sports psychologists, athletic trainers, their head curling coach and a technical curling coach.  This summer, the women had an unprecedented amount of ice time available to them in Green Bay.  The Green Bay Curling Club provided the means to train indoors despite the hot summer months. And when the team wasn’t training, it was competing across the globe.

“We played in four curling tournaments in Canada, one in the United States and four in Europe. We have played many of our Olympic competitors, won a tournament in Canada and qualified in the top eight at all of the tournaments, except for two. I feel that the opportunities we have been given this season will pay off for us greatly in Vancouver.”

749 miles from Vancouver is Saskatoon, Saskatchewan—Debbie McCormick’s birthplace.  While Debbie may have been born under the maple leaf flag, she considers her hometown to be Pardeeville, Wisconsin.  She currently resides with her husband Pete in nearby Rio.  Debbie spends most of her local training hours with the Madison Curling Club, but doesn’t write off the impressive club in her own hometown.

“My husband and I compete at the Pardeeville Curling Club on Wednesday nights.  It is a small club with about 80 members, is very laid back and [has a] relaxing atmosphere.  We really enjoy the people there and everyone is super excited for us.”

Debbie says the support she has received from the members of both curling clubs has been tremendous. The Madison Curling Club threw her and her teammates an Olympic send-off party.  Her co-workers at Home Depot in Madison, where Debbie works part-time, are also supportive.  They allow her to work a flexible schedule while training and competing.

But Debbie’s biggest fans may be her smallest fans. Debbie’s two nephews Carter and Wesley are proud of their aunt and have a big trip planned to watch one of the most important experiences in Debbie’s life.

“Carter and Wesley will be at the Olympics with my brother Donnie and sister-in-law Courtney, waving their American flags!” says McCormick.  “We all have many friends and relatives going to Vancouver to cheer us on. My grandmother and two sets of aunts and uncles will be making the trip.  They are Canadians, so I told them they have to wave the American flag or there will be trouble!”

This will be McCormick’s third Olympic Games.  She played second for Scoeneberg’s fifth place team at the 1998 Winter Olympics and played third for Erickson’s fourth place team in the 2002 games.  Perhaps third time as skip is the charm—with her first game against a Japan team that upset the U.K (reigning gold medalists) in prelims at the 2006 Winter Games.

“We are all looking forward to arriving in Vancouver on February 6th! Our first game is on February 16th against Japan.  I can’t wait for our first game on Olympic ice! We have received e-mails from people all over the world wishing us all the best for the Olympics.  It is truly amazing how many people have been following our progress this season!

Check back for additional articles on Debbie as we follow her progress in the Olympic games!  Don’t forget to watch as Team USA takes on Japan the week of February 16th for televised coverage of women’s curling.

Thank you for reading our new column Sidetracked, where we branch out to bring you the best in non-mainstream Midwestern sports talent and off-the-beaten-path discussion topics. Remember, you read it here first at The

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  1. Curling is strangely addicting. I love how they show it all day during the Olympics. I think its one of the only sports you can watch without knowing anything about it.

  2. I joined the Marquette Curling Club after the 2002 winter games… It’s true… I mean, how many sports can you play and still drink during the event and not throw up???

  3. Andre–you’re right, it’s a fan favorite of anyone and everyone and I hope NBC puts it on primetime so that ratings go up this time around.

    David K.–I think I vaguely remember you possibly mentioning that once—but really? That’s cool you joined! BEST use of your time on organized sports at Marquette for sure!

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