Psychologist helps men’s curling team

UPDATED: Norway’s fancily clad men’s curling team, off to a brilliant start at the Olympics in Sochi after two victories in as many days, has received as much international fame for their colourful trousers as for their expertise in their sport. Now they feel the pressure on them is so high that they have a psychologist traveling with them.

Norway's skip Thomas Ulsrud shouts to his teammates during their men's curling round robin game against the US at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in the Ice Cube Curling Center in Sochi February 10, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/NTB Scanpix

Norway’s skip Thomas Ulsrud shouts to his teammates during their men’s curling round robin game against the US at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in the Ice Cube Curling Center in Sochi February 10, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/NTB Scanpix

“But it’s mostly us who do the talking and the psychologist just nods,” curling team member Christoffer Svae told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) with a smile.

It was Svae who revealed that the team, often referred to as “Norway’s curling clowns” because of their choice of clothing, was traveling with a psychologist. “It can happen that nerves come creeping into play when we get towards the end of a match,” Svae explained.

After handily beating the US curling team in Monday’s opening action, by a score of 7-4, the team was set to face Russia next, with the grandstands expected to be full of spectators. The majority wasn’t likely to cheering for the Norwegians, even though Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon was there to root for them on Monday. Norwegian chess champion Magnus Carlsen has also said he wants to watch curling at the Olympics in Sochi.

“It was just great to win our first match,” skip Thomas Ulsrud said after what NRK called the Norwegians’ “comfortable” victory over the US. Team member Torger Nergård confirmed the Norwegians had “very good control” throughout the match, but the US had a few chances to score more points. The Norwegians’ 5-1 lead narrowed to 5-3 at one point, but the Americans didn’t manage to punish their opponents in the end.

On Tuesday they ended up winning again, defeating Russia 9-8. Even though the score was close, commentators claimed that Russia never posed a real threat and the Norwegians could celebrate another victory, this time over their host nation. Once again, their trousers caught attention as did the Russians’, in colourful patterns. Newspaper VG reported, though, that the Norwegians were warned by Olympic officials that they weren’t allowed to wear their trousers outside the arena, since they were considered a uniform. The team responded by heading outdoors in no trousers at all, in a humourous protest.

Curling was a fairly obscure sport for years until the Norwegian team, long among the top teams in the world, burst on the scene in their irreverent trousers at the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver. They quickly became the darlings of the public and the media, and were proud when King Harald V of Norway himself donned a pair of the trousers, too. They ended up winning silver, after winning gold in the 2002 Olympics, but made it clear they were in the Olympics to have fun.

All the attention they’ve attracted to themselves, though, can take its toll. The Norwegian team remains favoured for medals in Sochi but the sheer expectations put more pressure on them.

Asked whether the Norwegian men have any other rituals for tackling it, Svae laughed and said “yeah, we do, but they’re not appropriate to show on TV.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund