Curling’s Olympic medallist discuss being inspired and to inspire

  • Sweden discuss their Olympic legacy at the Le Gruyère AOP Europeans © WCF / Stephen Fisher

The wonderful thing about an Olympics and Paralympics is that its legacy doesn’t just impact the host nation, or an individual sport as a whole, it can reach down and change the life of an individual athlete or inspire young people to strive for their goals.

In the third part of our Legacy Series we ask some of curling’s Olympic medallists what inspired them to win their medals and how winning that medal has impacted them and others.

At the first Olympic Games of the modern era in Athens in 1896, the winner of an event was awarded an olive wreath and a silver medal. Things changed significantly since American triple jumper James B. Connolly was the first modern athlete to receive this honour, but what remained down the years was the notion of an Olympic medal being the ultimate goal in sport.

At the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, in PyeongChang, Anna Hasselborg and her Swedish rink added their names to the list of those achieving this goal when they took gold in the women’s curling event.

But, despite the undeniable sporting significance, the 29-year-old doesn’t feel a major effect on a personal level: “You’re still the same person and you still just love to curl. A lot more people recognise you, curling is getting more attention in Sweden. You think that things would change, but nothing has changed and that feels really really nice.”, she says at an Olympic medallists Meet & Greet session at the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships 2018 in Tallinn, Estonia.

Her team mate Agnes Knochenhauer adds: “I want to set new goals, now that you know that you can be up there and compete with everyone else at a high level. So maybe what has changed is that you have a lot of confidence in the team and that’s really nice.”

The deeper meaning behind these statements is that, though an Olympic gold medal may well be the pinnacle of sporting achievement, it isn’t a sign of stoppage. It rather is motivation to push forward.

“We need to get even better at things we’re already good at and try improve at things we need to be better at.” Knochenhauer says.

“I actually think it’s really fun and it’s a great thing. It’s an honour to compete with every team out there at every championship and on the tour.”

Lead Sofia Mabergs agrees and points out: “We’re the top team in the world right now and everyone wants to beat us, but it’s something that we like. We’ve been coming from behind a couple of years ago, so this is a different situation and we love that.”

The positive effects of Olympic achievements aren’t limited to the athletes. The impact on the development of the sport in their country is vast as third Sara McManus experienced when taking her gold medal back to her home club. “We have a really promising junior team and they were like yeah, I’m going to have one of those. I think that’s inspiring them to know that you can come out from a small curling club in Stockholm and win it”, she says.

A prominent example of the impact Olympic success can have on youth development is Rhona Howie’s - nee Martin’s - gold at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City that prompted the career of world champion and herself Olympic medallist Eve Muirhead [pictured above © WCF / Stephen Fisher].

“That’s when it really hit the map in Scotland,” Eve says. “I was 12 years old, and I remember being allowed to stay up late and watch it and it was so exciting. That’s when you think that’s what I want to do. I want to be out there and win medals like that.”

Also, for Muirhead, the sporting success she has achieved so far is nowhere near a reason to stop.
“I absolutely love what I do,” she says.

“What really drives me is the constant change and development within the sport. Every year there’s different things happening, from the brushes to the ice conditions to the changing of team mates. The challenges are always very different, so that’s what drives me and I’d love to go for another Olympics in Beijing.”

By feature writer, Sandrine Wyrich

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