Our neighbors up north love curling, an Olympic sport that’s not entirely unlike bowling on ice. Yet it remains relatively unknown in the States. Except in Seattle, which boasts one of the most social curling scenes this side of the border, plus the elite team captained by Lynnwood’s Brady Clark. Clark and his three teammates head to the USA Curling National Championship in Everett February 11–18 to fight for a repeat of last year’s victory. And for this 39-year-old it may be the final shot at that toughest target of all: the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
How long have you been curling?
I grew up in North Dakota and I started curling about once a week at 12. At 15, I got cut from a baseball team. I decided I was going to become very focused on curling.
And when did you know you were really good?
I qualified for the junior nationals when I was 16. We competed among the other top teams in the country, and we went 5-4 that year—we just missed the playoffs. At that point, I knew I was good. But I knew I could be a lot better.
What brought you to Seattle?
I got married, and my wife found a job in the area. We thought, That is one of the warmest places you can curl in the United States! The curling community here, they’re like an extension of our family.
People say curling is like golf—a mental game. How do you prepare for that?
A world-renowned expert, Dr. Saul Miller, trained me in visualization. It’s a way to prepare so then, when you get into that environment, it’s like you’ve already been there, you’ve already done it. I see myself in the third person—making shots, communicating with my team. It’s like a movie, but you’re watching yourself.
If you win nationals, your team is on a path to the Olympic tryouts. Have you tried out before?
In the 2005 Olympic trials, we lost in the semifinals. I’ve thought about that loss many times—how close we were, how if I had just made a half shot here, another shot there. The final game, neither one of the teams played really well, and I had to watch. I thought, If we had made it, we would be going to the Games.
You’re nearly 40. Is this your last shot at the Olympics?
The age of curlers at the elite level varies from low 20s up to 45. But I’ve had some pretty intense sciatica-related pain, which makes it very difficult to control the mind. I am definitely recognizing that this could be my last run.