FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 11/21/2022
CONTACT: Jon Lundin, Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games Head of Communications & Media ([email protected]) Tel: 518-637-6885
By: Meri-Jo Borzilleri, Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games
The Saranac Lake Civic Center will Play Host to the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games Men’s & Women’s Curling
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. – The U.S. women’s and men’s curling teams open Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games play Jan. 13 against Sweden, and both are favorites to be on the podium when the 11-day, winter multi sports and educational festival concludes Jan. 22.
Anne O’Hara and Danny Casper are members of teams who won playdown competitions last month in Fargo, N.D. to qualify for their first FISU Games.
“My team worked really hard to play in a lot of really good events to get prepared,” said O’Hara, a dental hygiene major at the University of Minnesota Mankato. “We wanted to make sure we’re peaking at the right time. And we did.”
O’Hara, Casper and their teammates know each other well, training out of the Chaska Curling Center in Chaska, Minn. where many national teams train.
O’Hara is the vice skip for the U.S. women. Her teammates are: Delaney Strouse, 22, of Midland, Mich., attending the University of Minnesota; Sydney Mullaney, 21, from Concord, Mass., attending the University of Minnesota; Susan Dudt, 21, of Malvern, Pa., attending Bucknell University and Rebecca Rodgers, 22, of Leyden, Mass., attending the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.
O’Hara said she is excited and very proud to make the FISU Games field after her team withstood the pressure of being favored in the qualifying competition.
Casper is the skip for the U.S. men. His teammates are Luc Violette, 23, from Lake Stevens, Wash., attending Edmonds (Wash.) College; Ben Richardson, 24, from Issaquah, Wash., attending Minneapolis Technical and Community College; Chase Sinnett, 24, Medfield, Mass., attending the University of Minnesota; Marius Kleinas, 20, of Marstons Mills, Mass., attending Minneapolis Technical and Community College.
“We’re all really good friends,” said Casper, a strategic communications major at the University of Minnesota. “Our two teams, we’re like a little family.”
The FISU Games is the world’s biggest international winter sports competition for collegiate-athletes, ages 17-25. During the January 12-22 Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games, about 1,500 athletes from 600 universities and 50 countries are expected to compete in 12 sports and 86 medal events throughout the Adirondack region. Competition venue locations include Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Wilmington, North Creek, Canton and Potsdam.
Neither O’Hara or Casper have been to the Lake Placid area before. “We’re going to a community that will be really excited for us and cheering for the U.S.,” O’Hara said. This will be only the third time the FISU Games are being hosted in the U.S. – Buffalo held the 1993 Summer Universiade, the last time the FISU Games were held on U.S. soil. Lake Placid hosted the 1972 Winter FISU Games.
O’Hara said Team USA’s top competition will come from Korea, Canada, Switzerland and Sweden for the women. Other teams are Japan, Great Britain, Austria, China and Spain. For the men, Casper said that Canada, Great Britain, Sweden, Switzerland and Norway will likely vie for the podium, with Japan, Korea, Brazil and the Czech Republic the dark horses for medals.
“We’re pretty fortunate that both U.S. teams are more than capable of winning it all,” Casper said. “We’re going into it expecting to be there at the end and confident that we can get it done.”
Four of the five members of the U.S. women’s team earned spots in the Olympic trials and are medalists in the World Junior Championships. Three of the men have Olympic trials experience and two own World Junior medals.
O’Hara grew up in Juneau, Alaska and at age four or five, tagged along with her brother to try curling when her mom’s boss suggested they go to the local club’s Saturday youth sessions. The young curlers were called Little Rockers. Adult rocks, or stones, weigh 42 pounds, too much for kids, who learned with a version about half the size, O’Hara said.
At first, she had no interest, but the club made it fun. “I would sit on the rocks and other people would push me on them,” she said.
Casper, from Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., has sports in his blood. His father’s family is from Green Bay, Wisc., home of the NFL’s Packers, but also a strong curling following. His great-aunt, Carla, is a 1988 curling Olympian and Derrick, a second cousin, has been a national team member. Another family member is Dave Casper, his great uncle, a Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end for the Oakland Raiders.
“My dad, when he moved to New York, he’d never curled,” said Casper, who started curling at age 11. “But all my family is so good at it, so he did it and then I eventually tried it. And it kind of went off from there.”
During the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games, O’Hara and Casper are relishing the possibility of getting free time to watch other sports, like ice hockey at the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena and speed skating on the James C. Sheffield Speed Skating Oval. Other international events, like Junior Worlds, are curling only.
“The (opening and closing) ceremonies are in that famous arena where the ‘Miracle on Ice’ happened,” Casper said. “Being a massive sports fan and that being one of my favorite movies, that’s very exciting…I’ve also heard how much they’re doing it up and how it’s the closest thing to the Olympics without it being the Olympics, how big it is.”
Defending gold medalists are Norway (men) and Sweden (women) from the 2019 Games in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. The FISU World University Games were not held in 2021 due to the worldwide pandemic. The U.S. men won the gold medal in 2007, with future Olympic champion John Shuster and Olympian Chris Plys in the lineup. That represents the only U.S. FISU curling medal for men or women since 2007, when curling made its FISU debut.
The curling events will be held at the Saranac Lake Civic Center, which is currently undergoing an expansion and upgrade. The center’s usual hockey ice will be converted to five sheets (lanes) of curling ice.
Fans can follow the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with @LakePlacid2023, @SaveWinterHQ, #lakeplacid2023, #savewinter.
For more information about the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games or to purchase tickets, visit www.lakeplacid2023.com.
PHOTO COURTESY: USA Curling
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