For Matt Hamilton, the first foray into curling was a classic case of middle-school contrariness.
When his dad asked him to play as an eighth-grader, Matt’s answer was a hard no. But four months later, when a friend asked?
“Yeah, that sounds cool,” Matt said he told his friend. “I was just at one of those defiant ages.”
For Becca Hamilton, his sister, it was a case of being dragged along to her older brother’s practices.
“I was forced to come watch him play,” Becca said.
“I had the car and I wasn’t gonna take her home,” Matt said. “I had to make it to practice in time after school.”
For both, though, the decision turned out to be an inspired one.
Both Hamiltons are in the championship mix this week in Cheney at the USA Curling Nationals, which head into playoff rounds Friday at the Eastern Washington University Recreation Center. Championship matches will be held Saturday, with a bid to the world championships on the line.
Becca is the third on Team Peterson, while Matt is the second on Team Shuster, which became the first U.S. team to win an Olympic gold medal in the sport at the Pyeongchang, South Korea, Games in 2018. Becca competed on the women’s team that year, finishing eighth of 10 teams at the Olympics.
Both have found success in a sport that continues to grow, a spurt the Hamiltons have seen at the junior level back in their home state, Wisconsin, where more interest and attention has brought in more money from sponsors.
“It’s getting far more demanding,” Matt said. “Back when I played (juniors) we played seven to 10 events a year, including nationals and worlds. Now there are 10 or 12 events before nationals.”
Living in the same town, it is easy for the Hamiltons to practice together. It has also made them better curlers.
“We’re both super competitive,” Becca, 29, said. “It’s always nice to have that practice buddy less than a mile away from you.”
“I’ve got somebody who’s better than me to practice against, which is always nice,” said Matt, 17 months older than Becca. “She pushes me to try and play better because, obviously, I don’t want to lose to my little sister.”
For both, watching the other is stressful, but it is more so for Matt, who said, “I’ll check linescores once in a while, but I can’t sit and watch her games.”
The Hamiltons also bear the distinction as the first to represent Team USA in mixed doubles curling at the Olympics, which debuted in 2018. They finished sixth out of eight teams there.
Mixed doubles modifies the standard rules of curling, specifically by cutting the number of rocks per team from eight to five. There are also just two players to a side, rather than the customary four.
“It’s a different game in the sense that one mistake can totally ruin your end because you throw only five shots per end,” Matt said.
Two stones – one per team – start in play, altering strategy and adding to its allure for fans, Matt said.
“It’s appealing to the fans because it’s so fast-paced,” Becca said, with games clocking in an hour shorter than standard men’s or women’s matches.
At nationals this week, both are positioned to compete for a title. If Becca has any advice for her brother, Matt said he’s happy to listen – and vice versa.
“I really respect her opinion, and she responds the same way to me,” he said. “I’m not doing it because I’m the mean brother. I’m just trying to make her better.”
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