Getting to know U.S. curler Ann Swisshelm
On the ice, Ann Swisshelm plays the position of “lead” on the women’s curling rink that will represent the United States in Sochi.
Off the ice, however, Swisshelm is known as much for her Chicago sports fandom – which is more like “fanaticism”, in her own words— as she is for her curling skills.
Embedded video_content_type: Curling rocks
NBCOlympics.com recently chatted with Swisshlem, a Chicago resident since the age of nine, who is almost as adept at reciting 1970s Chicago Cubs statistics as she is at playing a sport that she’s talented enough to be heading to the Olympics for.
NBCOlympics: So, you’re from Chicago, and are a huge Chicago sports fan. What Chicago sports teams are you a fan of?
Swisshelm: I watch the most games of the games played by the Chicago Bulls, Bears and (Black)‘Hawks. I don’t really watch regular TV. I only watch sports, when I have (extra) time.
NBCOlympics: You covered basketball, football and hockey. How about baseball? Do you side with the Cubs or the White Sox?
Swisshelm: It is the Cubs—tragically. My family always used to say it (National League) is ‘real baseball’ because the pitcher batted.
NBCOlympics: You mentioned the word ‘tragically’ when referring to being a Cubs fan. Even though the team hasn’t won a World Series in over 100 years, it isn’t all bad, no?
Swisshelm: The Cubs might actually be the worst team in the history of sports (laughs)!
But there was one (great) game I was at. One of the best games I was at was the (one-game National League playoff) when Gary Gaetti hit a home run (in 1998). That was as nuts as I’ve ever seen Wrigley.
NBC Note: The game Swisshelm is referring to is a one-game wildcard playoff in 1998, when the Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field (pictured below) to advance into the National League playoffs, where they were eventually eliminated by the Atlanta Braves.
Photo: USA Today Sports
NBCOlympics: How about any Cubs players that stick out? Who is your all-time favorite Cubs player?
Swisshelm: I want to go old-school and say someone like Mordecai ‘Three Finger’ Brown, who played back in the nineteen-teens when the Cubs were a better team.
But my favorite player of all-time was Dick Ruthven. He was a pitcher who (previously) won a ring with the Phillies.
He was actually my next-door neighbor when I was a kid. I babysat for his kids.
NBC Note: Dick Ruthven pitched in the Major Leagues from 1973-86, playing for the Cubs from 1983-86.
NBCOlympics: How about now? Who is your favorite current Chicago athlete?
Swisshelm: That’s easy. It’s Patrick Kane—I am going to be his (Olympic) teammate in a few months!
What I like about Patrick Kane is that a lot of people made assumptions about Patrick and his early play for the ‘Hawks—that he was a little guy, that he wasn’t tough enough and that he was going to be a one-dimensional player.
But he is ONE OF THE BEST hockey players that I have ever seen. He’s good on the puck, off the puck. I love it.
I think Patrick Kane (pictured below) has learned a lot playing with Marian Hossa. I’m not an expert, I’m a fan, but that’s what I see.
Photo: USA Today Sports
NBCOlympics: So you’re a Marian Hossa fan also?
Swisshelm: To watch the ‘Hawks play live to see what Marian does when he is not the center of attention is incredible. If ‘I’ got to skate on a line, I’d want to skate with Hossa.
NBCOlympics: You seem to know a lot about hockey?
Swisshelm: I watch a lot of hockey.
I was in the building during the ’10 and ’13 (Blackhawks Stanley) Cup runs.
On the other side of the coin, I was also in the building with the Penguins swept the ‘Hawks (in the Final, in 1992). That was a rough.
Embedded video_content_type: Deciphering Curling's Screams
NBCOlympics: Not everybody on your curling team is from Chicago. Do you ever clash with any of your curling teammates over your sports allegiances?
Swisshelm: Erika (Brown) and I have been roommates since 2009.
I think the TV in our hotel room has maybe been turned on three times—we watched (Milwaukee) Brewers games because Erika is a Brewers fan.
Brewers/Cardinals, National League Championship Series (in 2011). That was one time we turned the TV on.
NBCOlympics: Any sympathy for a Brewers fan? They have never won a World Series. At least the Cubs won twice, albeit over a hundred years ago.
Swisshelm: With me, it’s Chicago ONLY.
It’s Chicago with a crazy fanaticism.