'Curling clowns' attract attention

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Norway’s men’s curling team won Olympic gold in 2002 and did fairly well at the Olympics in Torino as well, but never have they attracted as much attention as now in Vancouver. They’re performing well again, but that’s not what’s thrust normally modest men into the media glare.

It is, of course, their unusual attire.

Christoffer Svae is the one given the credit (or blame) for the checkered, clown-like trousers that have brought more publicity to this year’s Olympic curling events than he ever thought possible.

Svae had been given responsibility to acquire their uniforms. Newspaper Dagsavisen reports that the trousers were bought “on impulse” while the team was at training camp in Edmonton just before the Olympics began.

“I thought it was a joke, but I put them on,” team leader Pål Trulsen, who won curling gold in Salt Lake City eight years ago, told Dagsavisen . So did the others and now they have no intention of changing clothes. They’re having too much fun.

“There’s so much security and control everywhere, and everyone is so serious,” Svae said. “Then we come and everyone cheers up.”

He simply thought the still-relatively obscure sport of curling needed to be lightened up, as did the seriousness of Olympic competition. “And if this encourages young people to get interested in curling, all the better,” he told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

The trousers, which conveniently sport the colors of the Norwegian flag, were an instant hit and have become wildly popular. A Facebook Fan Club has attracted tens of thousands of members, the Norwegian men have popped up on innumerable front pages in North America and the popular US TV show “Today” ran a feature on the Norwegian team that even portrayed their own hosts and hostesses sporting the trousers.

Skip Thomas Ulsrud told newspaper Aftenposten that he’s been amazed by the publicity. “We figured there might be a bit of interest, but that it would be this massive never occurred to us,” Ulsrud said. One Canadian TV show has deemed their attire as the best at the Olympics.

Despite their comic appearance, there’s nothing comical about the performance of Ulsrud (at center in photo) , Svae (right) and Haavard Vad Petersson (left) , all of whom hail from the curling club at Snarøya, just west of Oslo. As of Saturday, they’d only lost one match, their opener against Canada, and were well on their way to a place in the semi-finals, if not Olympic gold again.

“We of course don’t want (the trousers) to detract from the actual sports action,” said Trulsen. “I don’t think they do, because on the ice, no one is really paying attention to that.”

(SEE OUR SPORTS NEWS FOR ONGOING OLYMPIC COVERAGE OF NORWEGIAN ATHLETES.)