GANGNEUNG, South Korea—–
Ask any American about the sport they feel like they could be a part of, be it in an Olympic or Paralympic setting, the answer more often than not, is “Curling”. In fact, some people in the media have labeled the movement winter, “Curling Fever”. For Team USA, it was more like Gold Fever for the men during the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics as they took home the top prize for the first time ever. This is a feat that the U.S. Paralympic team wants to imitate in their chance to play.
The team, which is like a large family, is lead by Captain Kirk Black, from San Antonio, Texas who team member Justin Marshall aka “The Little Brother” of the team calls, “The Grandfather”.
“Well Kirk our skip[per] is definitely a grandpa, and he’s probably the oldest on the team. I call him grandpa because I train with him all the time. Penny is definitely my sister on the team, keeping me on the straight and arrow, trying to keep me focused, Megan is my little sister god bless her… she’s older than me but just trying to care for her and look out for her and Emt is definitely the big loud one who we try to get to shut up,” Justin said jokingly.
Marshall, 31, is also voted the “most quirky” one on the team says all of his cohorts. In fact, he wishes that his other teammates would joust him with their brooms using the wheelchairs. Along with joking and keeping it light at all times and making them say certain words at inappropriate times for laughs.
For the former UCONN basketball standout Steve Emt, a man who compares himself to an oak tree due to his strength and loud, deep, booming voice, he never imagined that his adventure of playing curling would ever happen more than 20 years ago, especially after the car accident that changed his life.
“You’re crazy”, Emt Said in reference to the question of whether someone 10 years ago would tell him he would be in PyeongChang today. He continued, “I mean, I didn’t even know what Curling was until 5 years ago. I had my accident in 1995 and so I was still looking for something, that one sport that was competitive to fill the void.”
For Meghan Lino, AKA “Frodo”, which is a lord of the rings reference because she is the smallest of the group, what she doesn’t have in size she makes up for with huge heart. She is trying when not at the Paralympics in her home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts to get the wheelchair youth involved in curling:
“I help put on wheelchair clinics in my home area and every time somebody new comes, tell them ‘ you have to give it a try.’ and they will try.”
And trying is just what Penny Greely did when she first lost her leg in a train incident. On a complete whim she received an interest flyer in her Wisconsin town about curling 8 years ago. She went to the rink tried it out and never looked back. But she is never one to back down from a challenge or give one. In fact after the games, Greely said that she has challenged some pretty high profile candidates in curling:
“I challenged Aaron Rodgers to a match. Yes. I challenged him to come sweeping and he has not responded.”
So gauntlet has been laid down. Team USA is ready for all challengers from the world. The Curling team starts their preliminary matches against host country Korea at 2:35 PM Korea Time (4:35 AM EST) Saturday.