Getting to know U.S. curler Jessica Schultz
Jessica Schultz will play the position of “second” on the U.S. women’s curling team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She's making her first Olympic appearance since 2006, when she made her Olympic debut at the Torino Games.
NBCOlympics.com recently spoke with Jessica, age 29, about herself, curling and how she went from growing up in Alaska to being one of the top women’s curlers in the United States.
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NBCOlympics.com: So, you were born in Alaska, where you’re surrounded by ice and snow.
Starting at the beginning, how did you get started in curling as a kid in Alaska?
Schultz: We started as a family, when I was younger, during a family game night—my parents, brother and me.
After one year of playing with my parents, I decided I wanted to join a junior women’s team.
We started traveling for junior nationals, and after that, when I got a little taste of the competition, I was hooked.
NBCOlympics.com: That one Schultz family game night has gone on to be pretty life changing for you—presumably much more than any other family game night you ever had. What other types of things did your family do on these nights?
Schultz: We also played board games and card games and stuff.
Once we got into curling, that pretty much became our family game.
I think it was a way (for our parents) to get us get away from (always) being behind our computers.
NBCOlympics.com: Getting away from your childhood, you no longer call Alaska home. How did your current home, Minnesota, become your new home? Did your curling career have anything to do with your relocation?
Schultz: I moved to Minnesota for curling when I didn’t know what I wanted to do with college.
It’s kind of isolated up in Alaska, so it’s harder to get as much competition.
It seemed at that time that everybody was moving to Minnesota if they wanted to continue with competitive curling.
NBCOlympics.com: Now that you’re a Minnesota girl, have you adopted any of Minnesota pro sports teams as your favorites?
Schultz: Minnesota Twins, of course. I’m also a Wild fan, but I don’t get to follow it as much with the curling season. And the Vikings, but they’re kind of struggling.
NBCOlympics.com: Well, the Wild will have several of their players competing in hockey at the Olympics. Do you plan on catching up with any of their players in Sochi?
Schultz: I’d like to see (Zach) Parise for sure.
And I met David Backes of the (St. Louis) Blues at our media summit. We got to know each other a little bit and we’re doing the Athletes for Animals— I am working on getting involved.
I’ve been looking around at shelters in the Minneapolis area to see which one would be a good fit for me.
NBCOlympics.com: One of the big difference between yourself and some of the hockey players that you mentioned is that they get paid millions of dollars to play their sports as full-time jobs, when curling isn’t as financially lucrative. Seeing as curling can’t be your only other source of income, what else do you do to support yourself?
Schultz: I work at an orthopedic clinic. We specialize with post-surgical patients.
NBCOlympics.com: Must be pretty hard to balance a full-time job with training for the Olympics?
Schultz: I start work at 6:30 in the morning, and I get off at 5:00.
After, I either go straight to the rink for practice or to the gym. Or from the gym to practice, or from practice to the gym.
It’s challenging, but it’s worth every minute of it.
NBCOlympics.com: One of the misconceptions with curlers is that you don’t train as hard as athletes in other sports. What’s the funniest question about curling that you have ever heard?
Schultz: People have asked: ‘Well, do you train in your kitchen?’
And it’s like ‘no, I don’t practice by sweeping my kitchen floor!’
NBCOlympics: So, this is your chance to clear the air. How ‘do’ you train?
Schultz: Lifting, interval training.
Sprinting, pushing sleds around. All the squats and lunges you could ever want to do in your life.
I’m in the gym 3-4 times per week.
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NBCOlympics.com: Obviously, just getting to compete in the Olympics is a huge honor. But nobody does all that training without some expectations and goals. In terms of finish, what would qualify as a successful Olympics for the U.S. women’s curling team?
Schultz: A medal—top of the podium—is in our sights.
We’re hungry for a medal and we’re doing whatever it takes to get there.