Thomas Ulsrud won lots of attention for his team’s flashy pants at the Winter Olympics, but also for his near-legendary skills in the sport of curling. On Tuesday evening Ulsrud died at age 50 after what Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported was a long-term illness.
“This is very tragic,” Pål Trulsen, secretary general of the Norwegian Curling Federation, told NRK after confirming Ulsrud’s death. “We had all looked forward to learning more from him as a trainer and coach in the future. He had so much to contribute and he wanted to contribute.”
Curling doesn’t receive the massive funding assistance that other winter sports do in Norway, and it’s not always easy to make a commitment to the sport that Ulsrud himself helped make popular. “He has been in the same situations that new players get into,” Trulsen said in noting that Ulsrud raised curling to an entirely new level in Norway.
“He sold all his sun-tanning studios to be able to play curling full-time, and trained two to three times a day,” Trulsen said. “He was the most serious player we had at that time (in the early 2000s).”
Ulsrud helped Norway’s team win silver at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 as part of the “Curling clowns” that attracted lots of media coverage because of their unusual attire in patriotic colours. They went on to also become European Champions in 2010 and 2011. Ulsrud himself also won a special prize from the international curling federation for best exemplifying “traditional curling values” like fair play and being a gentleman.
“He’s the skip with the most victories in international championships and probably the best curling spiller we’ve ever had,” Trulsen said. “This is just such sad news. He’ll be missed both nationally and internationally.”