O'Leary to compete on international curling stage
Silver Bay curler Norma O’Leary has earned a spot in a world championship curling competition and will be curling in the country that invented the sport this spring.
For the second year, O’Leary and her teammates have advanced to the World Senior Curling Championships, which will be held in Dumfries, Scotland, April 23-30.
“I wanted so badly to go back,” O’Leary said. The team placed sixth last year, but O’Leary said they are capable of much more. “I believe we’re going to play a lot better this year.”
The 2013 World Senior Championship was the Silver Bay native’s first international competition, but she’s racked up plenty of recognition stateside. Among the highlights, she’s participated in the Olympic trials, the U.S. National Championships five times and won the Minnesota State Women’s Championship five times in a row.
O’Leary is celebrating 20 years as a curler, a sports career inspired by her husband, Mike O’Leary. He was part of a bronze medal-winning team that played at the Men’s World Curling Championship, the premiere curling competition before the sport was added to the Winter Olympics in 1998.
During the warmer months, O’Leary is the manager of the Silver Bay Golf Course and keeps busy on the links with her second favorite hobby, golfing. The trip to Scotland in April will be the perfect marriage of her two passions.
“I am definitely going a couple days early to visit the St. Andrews Golf Course,” she said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
In addition to being the home of curling, Scotland is also the home of golf. The Old Course at St. Andrews is one of the oldest golf courses. The sport is said to have started there in the early 1400s.
After her visit to the greens, O’Leary and her team will head to the ice, beginning the competition with a match against England on April 24. She competes with two women from St. Paul and a third from Edgerton, Wis. They stay connected with a few group practices and several tournaments throughout the year. O’Leary has high hopes for the team’s second run at Worlds.
“Last year, going into the competition, I really wasn’t sure what to expect,” O’Leary said. “This year, I know what to expect. Obviously, we have to play well, but I’m very confident we’re capable of medaling.”
With Margie Smith, Debbie Dexter and Shelly Kosal, she hopes to edge out most of the other 14 competitors to take a place on the winners’ podium. She said that Canada is always a powerhouse, but Team USA should be able to out-curl the other challengers.
“It would be a huge disappointment if we don’t medal this year,” she said.
In the nearer future, she will be representing Minnesota next weekend at the Club Nationals in Two Harbors. Her team won the qualifying bonspiel in Eveleth the first weekend in February.
“I’m really excited about playing in Two Harbors because I’ll be able to sleep in my own bed,” she said with a laugh.
After curling season, she’ll have the golf course to prepare. She said the golf course members are supportive of her busy touring schedule as a high-caliber curler, but she hopes to have most of the prep work for the 2014 summer season done before she heads to Scotland so the greens can be uncovered upon her return.
In the meantime, she’s got her eye on the curling rocks.
“For me, it’s always one game at a time,” she said. “I’ve got quite a few games this year that I’ve still got to think about.”