In preparation for the 2019-2020 season, the World Curling Federation has been speaking to some of the world’s top athletes, finding out how they got involved with curling, who inspires them and what motivates them to get out onto the ice and be the best they can be.
In our final interview of the seven-part series, we spoke to United States’ Cory Christensen. In the last few years, the 25-year-old has broken into the women’s field after a successful junior career representing United States on several occasions.
Christensen competed at five consecutive World Junior Curling Championships, spanning from 2012 until 2016. Of those five championships, she skipped her team four times – winning silver in her final year – and was an alternate in 2013.
Once in the women’s game, Christensen competed at the World Women’s Curling Championship 2017 as an alternate with Nina Roth and joined the team again at the Olympic Winter Games 2018.
This past season, she teamed up with Olympic champion, John Shuster, in mixed doubles where the two competed at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship 2019 in Stavanger, Norway. In a record breaking field of 48 teams, Christensen and Shuster won the bronze medals against Australia.
Now, she’s kicking off this season as third on a new team, skipped by Jamie Sinclair. The unit is backed by twins, Sarah and Taylor Anderson and Vicky Persinger.
How did you get involved in curling? Curling isn’t as popular yet as it is with your neighbours up north – did you train in Canada a lot growing up?
My parents both curl so I grew up at the curling club watching them play and got started as soon as I could. I was lucky to grow up in a club that had a really strong junior programme – The Duluth Curling Club – so I was able to develop my skills and start playing in junior spiels around the area. As I became more interested in playing competitively my team travelled to Canada to play in higher-level junior competitions, which definitely helped to develop us as young players.
Can you share your curling journey – from competing at five World Juniors to skipping your own women’s team to now joining Jamie Sinclair’s team?
I was 17 at my first junior worlds and we didn’t win a single game. Every year after that we continued to improve, eventually finishing with a silver medal my last year of Juniors. I felt that it was a pretty big jump from competing in juniors to competing in women’s, but was still able to medal at our Women’s Nationals and compete in our Olympic Trials. This season Jamie asked me to play third for her and I am looking forward to teaming up with her and seeing what we can accomplish.
What are you most looking forward to in the coming season with Team Sinclair? What are some challenges of a new team and what are some tips to work through that?
I’m looking forward to the new challenge of playing third, I’ve skipped for most of my career, so this will be new for me. I’m also excited to see this new team line-up in action. I’ve played with the Anderson sisters and Vicky in previous seasons, and I’m really looking forward to teaming up with Jamie. I think one of the biggest challenges with a new team is figuring out team roles and how to work together out on the ice, and how to help your teammates be the best they can be. I think the only way to work through that is with time and being honest with each other about what you want and need from your teammates on the ice.
You joined Nina Roth’s team at the PyeongChang Olympics as an alternate. What did it feel like to join the team? What were your roles as an alternate at the Olympics?
I feel so fortunate and grateful that Team Roth asked me to be their alternate at the Olympics. I was their alternate at World Women’s the year before in Beijing so I knew the girls well and felt that I fitted in with the team well. I learned so much by watching so many high-level games and being in such a pressure-filled environment. As alternate my job was to match rocks at late night practices with the coaches, make sure equipment and snacks were ready for games, and just be there to help the girls with whatever they needed to perform at their best.
How was your Olympic experience? Can you share your most memorable moment?
As athletes, going to the Olympics is what we dream of and work towards every day, so it was a dream come true to be at the Olympics. The most memorable moment was for sure walking in the opening ceremonies. I got goosebumps when they announced “United States of America” as we walked into the stadium. And, obviously being there to cheer on our guys as they won the gold medal was an experience I will never forget.
Have you noticed curling in the United States has changed at all since the last Olympics with the men winning gold?
Yes! I used to have to explain curling to people and now pretty much everyone has heard of it and knows about the men winning gold. We’ve been lucky to be getting more curling on TV in the States which is helping to grow the sport. It’s exciting to see and be a part of.
What is your most memorable win and why?
Probably beating Canada in the 1v2 game at World Juniors in my last year of eligibility. After the win, we were guaranteed a spot in the final, therefore knew we would be bringing home a medal. We won the game on my last shot and all my family was there so it was a fun celebration.
What has been your toughest loss and what did you learn?
Losing the Mixed Doubles Olympic Trial final was a tough one. I think I’ve learned to accept that everything happens for a reason and even when a tough loss seems like the end of the world at the time, it’s important to learn from it and make you stronger going forward.
You won bronze with John Shuster at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in April. How was that experience competing against so many different nations and bringing home a medal? How did you and John work together?
It was such a unique and fun event to be part of. It was amazing to see 48 nations competing and the excitement for the sport around the globe. With 48 teams at the event, it was a grind to make it all the way to play-offs but I think John and I did a good job of focusing on one game at a time and keeping it lighthearted out on the ice. We have a lot of fun playing together and wish we had more time in our schedules to play more events together. Playing so many games together in Norway was a great experience for us as a team and we are excited to continue that momentum into this season.
Who has had the biggest influence on your curling career? Why?
My mom, she is my biggest supporter. She always encourages me to work towards and believe in my dreams. She was a competitive curler herself and was actually my coach while I was in juniors. Looking back on the experience of having my mom coach me at multiple world competitions, it’s really unique and I feel grateful to have travelled the world with her, competing in the sport we both love.
Thank you, Cory, for the insight into your curling career so far and all the best in your future endeavours.
You can follow Team Sinclair on Twitter.