By Hiromu Namiki / Japan News Staff WriterPYEONGCHANG, South Korea — A pair of siblings from McFarland, Wis., is set to make their Olympic debut on Thursday in the mixed doubles event in curling — one of four disciplines to be newly introduced at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Matt Hamilton encouraged his younger sister Becca to start curling when they were both teenagers. After practicing together for more than a decade, they now represent the United States in mixed doubles, as well as separately in the men’s and women’s team events.
The mixed doubles comprises a male and female player. Curlers play up to eight ends, compared to 10 in the four-member team event. Mixed doubles games tend to be fast-paced, with more opportunities to score big.
At a press conference on Tuesday, the pair stressed that their strength lies in teamwork. Becca, 27, said it’s helpful that they don’t “sugarcoat” their words when pointing out problems.
“We are able to be really honest with each other,” Matt, 28, added.
Matt described himself as an animated person who brings energy to the team, while Becca said she has a calm mentality to keep things in control.
“She’s kind of the calm to my storm,” Matt said.
Asked which of the two takes the initiative during playing, both raised their hands.
“I call most of the shots, Becca just lets me do that,” Matt explained. “When she really disagrees, she gets the ultimate veto power.”
Matt started curling about 15 years ago. He initially wasn’t interested, but after trying it at his friend’s recommendation, he was captivated by the depth of the sport — often described as chess on ice. He encouraged Becca to play, teaching her the basics and practicing together.
Three years after Becca began her curling career, she beat Matt when they played one-on-one.
“I was pretty devastated, and at the same time really proud of her,” Matt said. Since then, Becca has beaten Matt for countless times. “We’re each other’s coaches now,” Matt said.
Matt was part of the U.S. men’s team that won the bronze medal in the 2016 world championship, beating Japan for third place. Becca was a member of the women’s team that finished fifth at the 2017 worlds. Both said they know the Japanese teams well, and are looking forward to a good game in the team event.
Eight teams are taking part in the mixed doubles at Pyeongchang. Matt believes they have a chance of victory, but also knows that a tough road lies ahead, given that the volatile nature of the event means the battle for a spot on the podium is wide open.
Matt and Becca will face off against husband and wife Aleksandr Krushelnitckii and Anastasia Bryzgalova of the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) in their first match of the round-robin preliminary stage.