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Ann Swisshelm, Chicago's Olympic Curler, Talks Sochi, Hawks and Gold Dreams

By Emily Morris | February 10, 2014 10:54am
 Olympic curler Ann Swisshelm talks Sochi, Blackhawks and hometown food
Ann Swisshelm
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CHICAGO —  Curler Ann Swisshelm, a Chicagoan competing in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, officially got started early Monday with a first-round match.

And then the 45-year-old West Town resident took some time to chat by phone with DNAinfo Chicago about her experiences in Russia so far.

She and teammates Erika Brown, Debbie McCormick and Jessica Schultz (Allison Pottinger is the team's alternate), lost their opening game 7-4 to Switzerland on Monday, but Swisshelm sounded hopeful and excited for another chance to win big.

Q: How's it going so far?

Swisshelm: You know, it's good. It's good to have the first game done. [I'm] sorry we didn't end up in the win column. But it's good to get out on the ice and feel the energy of the venue and get that first game out of the way.

What's next for you and the team? When's your next game?

We play the Russian team tomorrow morning [11 p.m. Monday CT] and then the Great [Britain] team tomorrow evening [9 a.m Tuesday CT]. We have a two-game day tomorrow, and so that will be a big day.

So what has your impression of Sochi been so far, and how have your accommodations been?

Honestly I can't tell you how wonderful the Sochi organizing committee [has been]. Everything we've experienced inside the Olympic park, inside the Olympic village has been outstanding. You know, we're sorry to see some of the negativity that's happening out there, but we've been well taken care of, and we're enjoying everything Sochi has to offer. [It's] so beautiful, I mean it's 60 degrees and sunny at a winter Olympics. It's awesome.

What, if anything, about Sochi might remind you of Chicago?

We are on the water, and that is great. But the water is to the south, so it's a little confusing. I'm a little turned around. You know, we're used to water only being to the east.

Is there anyone you still kind of get star-struck seeing? Or is everyone pretty used to one another?

You know, I think out of respect you try not to be star-struck. But I'll tell ya, if I get a chance to meet Patrick Kane, or Marian Hossa, or Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, I'll be happy.

Do you have a favorite souvenir that you or the team are taking home?

Let's see, my favorite souvenir so far. I mean obviously the beautiful gear we got. And I can tell you that opening ceremony sweater is absolutely gorgeous in a crazy, you know, I would say vintage curling kind of way. So, I'm definitely excited to bring home all the gear we got.

... I kept a ticket to opening ceremonies that I found on the ground, which I think is pretty cool. We don't need tickets, so you know it's something as an athlete you would never have in your hand. So I'm sorry for the person who dropped theirs after the ceremony, but I got a nice souvenir.

Is there anything you're missing about home right now? Like if you were back, what coffee shops or restaurants or food you'd be able to have over here that you can't get over there?

DeLux on Milwaukee; the owner Jen is amazing. And then the Italian food at at Bella Notte at Grand Avenue and the Italian food at Bacchanalia ...Those three places, there's no places like them on Earth.

Where do you train when you're back home, and what is your training regimen like?

It's every day that we're not traveling or competing. So I have a gym in my house, and the ice rink I practice at is in Highland Park.

You were at the Olympics in 2002 [the team finished in fourth place in Salt Lake City]. How much have things changed since then, and what are your expectations this time around?

Our expectations are to medal. We would love to win the Olympics. That's what our goal is; that's what we've been training toward.

... I think everything is a little more professional, right? How to handle the venue, how they operate the venue, the way they make the ice, the way they treat the stones. And then the way the athletes approach the game, the way we train, everything is much more professional and sophisticated from 12 years ago, you know, just the natural evolution of being an elite sport at the Olympic level.

Is it true that you're retiring after these games?

Yeah. I think, you know, I've had a really outstanding career. I'm the oldest member of Team USA, and I am looking forward to the next generation stepping in. And then I don't know what I'm going to do next, but I'm looking forward to it.

Do you have anything to say for your family, friends or neighbors who maybe got up really early this morning to watch you play?

Thank you. And get ready to do it again and again and again this week over the next 10 days.

What will you be up to when you come back?

You know what, I'm turning around; I'm going to Philadelphia [for the USA Curling National Championships in Aston, Pa.] And I'm going to help do some of the broadcasting on the webcast. And then after that I don't know. I'm going to take a week off.