Q&A with Joe Polo
Do you have any kids?
Daughter Ailsa was born on 4/29/17, 15 1/2 weeks premature. She is taking up a lot of our time lately but she is doing well right now which is allowing me to refocus on curling. I think the whole experience will help my mental toughness.
Do you have another full-time job or business? How do you balance work and training?
I have a very understanding employer Lakehead Constructors. They understand my goals and have supported them over the last 9 years.
Do you have any pets?
Bella our labradoodle will be 9 this fall. She has been a fantastic 90 lb lap dog. She really helps my wife get through the long winters when I am gone curling.
In your hometown, what are your favorite spots to relax, eat out, etc.?
The aerial lift bridge in Duluth is the most well know tourist attraction. Hiking up the north shore of lake superior is a close second. (one of my favorite activities) The Pickwick and Tavern on the Hill are a couple of the places I like to eat. I also enjoy getting out fishing on one of the local lakes. Nothing is more relaxing then floating around in a boat.
What’s your typical training day/schedule?
Wake up at 5:30 to the gym by 6:00. Work out till 7:00 focusing on flexibility, stability and cardio. Work from 7-5. Some days I squeeze in a 1 hr practice session over lunch. Play in a league game at night.
How do you work to achieve your daily goals?
Daily goals change throughout the year but I tend to focus on one thing at a time until I have it completed. If I go for a practice session I focus on one thing and mix in some others for variety. If I try to practice to many things at once the sessions don't seem to be as productive.
What is your favorite workout or fitness trend?
I love the rowing machine
What’s the most grueling work out you’ve ever done?
We have done some pretty killer circuits at the OTC with our trainer. It was great because it was with the entire high performance team.
What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?
The amount of mental preparation there is. We have a sport psychologist working with us all year long. I do visualization and focus on my breathing almost every day.
Is there anything you do for training that’s out of the ordinary or experimental?
I don't think so. Since curling is a lot about muscle memory and replicating certain shots I try to make the same shot 3-5 time in a row before I switch to something different.
Have you ever been seriously injured? What did it take for you to come back from that injury?
I currently have a SLAP tear in my right shoulder. I have been playing through the injury for the last 4 years. It was just diagnosed last summer and surgery is scheduled for after the Olympics.
What does a typical day of eating look like during training?
I mostly just try to keep things balanced. I do not have a strict plan.
What is your earliest memory of doing or seeing skating?
Jr. League doing drills. I was 10 when I started curling. I loved the people. The curling world is a close knit group of people that will do anything for another curler.
What's your earliest or favorite memory of watching the Olympics?
1994 Tommy Moe Skiing. I didn't think about Olympics till curling was made a full medal event.
Was there a specific “breakthough” moment/competition when you finally realized you could compete in your sport at a high enough level to reach the Olympics?
I always thought I was good but the time I knew I could compete with the best was at the world championships in 2005. I was the top ranked 2nd in the field.
What's something cool, weird intense about your sport that people don't normally see? What’s the hardest part of your sport?
There are all of the above in curling but making sure your rocks are matched is one that most people don't get. Every stone has its own characteristics. Some curl more than others some are faster than others.
Are there any misconceptions about your sport that you would like to clear up?
That it isn't a sport. Curling involves a mix of finesse, power, endurance and strategy that most sports don't.
Who is your coach? How long have you been working together and what’s your relationship like?
Phill Drobnick. He has been my coach for 2 years. I have known Phill since we were in Jr's. I think we have a good relationship built on mutual respect.
Who do you socialize with most within your sport or any sport?
Curling is a sport where socialization kind of comes with the territory. We see some teams once a year but always tend to catch up like old friends.
Have you ever worked with a sports psychologist? If so, how did it help you?
Yes, I have had a few. They have helped me understand how my body works in different situations and how to avoid the bad.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Believe that you will make the next shot. Even if things are not going well shut it out of your brain and say thats not how I do it. I make those shots. I will make the next one.
What's a big obstacle that you've overcome in your life?
I think the biggest is ongoing which is working full time and still curling competitively.
Who is your Olympic role model?
Steve Mesler. I was paired up with him at an Olympic summit in '05 and we have been in contact a little over the years. I love how he has turned his success into a great program for kids - Classroom Champions.
Within your sport, who has been your greatest influence and why?
Ed Lukowich. He was my coach for many years and sees the game differently than your average person.
What athlete in any sport has been your greatest source of inspiration?
I love watching all the great baseball pictures. Watching a guy like Madison Bumgarner in the World Series a couple years ago was amazing. He elevated his performance to a level that was unlike any other.
What advice would you give to a young child just starting out in curling?
Practice, practice, practice.
Who is your biggest rival? Is it friendly or contentious?
Friendly rivalry with Craig Brown and Chris Svae.
Who was the most influential in helping you achieve your dreams?
My old skip Pete Fenson. He did a lot of mentoring of me both before we started playing and during. We did win an Olympic bronze together.
Did anyone ever tell you that you wouldn’t be able to succeed in your sport? How were you able to overcome that?
I was told that in many other sports but not curling. As I was cut from teams in high school I just started curling and fishing more.
What is your favorite perk of being an elite Olympic athlete?
Being part of that fraternity of people that can say they are Olympians and how there is an immediate sense of respect between each other.
Do you have any superstitions?
Take the same route to the rink if you are winning.
Do you have any tattoos?
I have a logo from the '06 Olympics and a curling rock on my right shoulder blade.
Do you collect anything?
I have a ton of baseball cards from when I was younger. My wife hates it but I collect room keys from all the hotels I have stayed at over the years.
If you were not an athlete, what would you be doing?
A lot of fishing and hunting.
When you have time off, what would constitute a perfect day for you?
Enjoy a cup of coffee, and spend the day outside.
How do you unwind after a competition?
Usually have a few beers with my team and competitors.
Do you have any fears?
Not a fan of insects or snakes if they surprise me. I don't care for heights.
Do you like to travel? What has been the most special place you have traveled to and why?
We travel all over the place curling. One cool place was the great wall of China. I also loved Cortina Italy. It was so beautiful.
What's something quirky about yourself that people would be amused to learn?
I'm an engineer so I am kind of quirky by nature.
What's your personal motto?
Not so much of a motto but to relax and refocus I think about waves of the ocean.
What are some of your hobbies?
Fishing - I dont get to go nearly as much as I would like but I love floating around on the lake.
Hiking - I get to go quite often with my wife and dog on the Duluth hillside.
What is your music of choice while training?
ACDC, Kenny Chesney, Garth Brooks, Queen, anything upbeat.
Do you have any celebrity crushes?
Have you ever done karaoke? What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Ohh there are so many. "You've Lost That Loving Feeling"
What will success look like for you in PyeongChang? What are your goals?
To get on the podium. I have confidence in my team to get there.
Will you head home for the holidays prior to the Games? What do you most look forward to?
Yes I will. It will be my daughter's first Christmas so it will be the first time she meets many of the extended family.
What’s on your Christmas or holiday list this year?
A trip to the Olympics for my wife and daughter.