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USA curling champ Jamie Sinclair has the stones to win it all in PyeongChang

“The Olympics have been my dream forever,” admits Jamie Sinclair. “I remember watching as a kid and just dreaming about competing there one day.”

Well, she may be about to get her chance. As skip (curling-speak for captain) of her High Performance Program team, Sinclair enters next month’s Olympic Team Trials as reigning national champion and frontrunner to represent the United States at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Incredibly, unlike so many other Team USA hopefuls, the 25-year-old American curler grew up dreaming of winning gold for Canada. How, then, did she become USA Curling’s best hope to win its first-ever Olympic medal in the women’s game?

Thank America’s birthright citizenship policy for that. Born in Alaska to Canadian military parents – her father was a fighter pilot and her mother was an air traffic controller – Sinclair retained U.S. eligibility even though she came of age in Ontario. Curling since age nine, she racked up a passel of honors during a sterling juniors career — a fact that did not escape American notice.

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The United States has seen its fair share of recent international struggles in curling. To turn their fortunes around, a little out-of-the-box thinking was required — like looking north of the border for some help. And there stood Jamie Sinclair, a dual-national schooled in the Canadian tradition but open to the possibilities that curling in America could offer.

She concedes that this was a most difficult decision. “The hardest part was the timing of it all,” explains Sinclair. “I had just won the [2014] Canadian University Championship and that meant, the following year, I would have gone to Worlds. But it was that summer, between those two events, that I had to decide.”

“I hadn’t really thought about playing in the States before, but it was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” she continues. “It was an opportunity to play at a higher level and get better training, being part of a national program. So I tried out for the team and was fortunate enough to make it. I haven’t looked back since.”

Not even for her Carleton University graduation. Rather than celebrate her honors degree in international business with the rest of her classmates back in Ontario, Sinclair was stateside, putting in extra practice hours on the National Training Center ice.

 

 

And that hard work looks to be paying off. This year alone, her team (including Alex Carlson, Vicky Persinger, and Monica Walker) won the U.S. national championship, advanced to the playoffs at consecutive Grand Slam of Curling events, took top prize at the prestigious Shorty Jenkins Classic, and filmed the made-for-television “Curling Night in America” (airing October 10 on NBC Sports).

Win or lose this weekend in Omaha, Sinclair’s curling mission is just getting started. She feels driven to grow the game here in the United States, where curling participation lags far behind her native Canada. Sinclair means to change that — with a modern twist, of course.

While studying at university, Sinclair created a YouTube series — “Curl Up With Jamie” — for her entrepreneurship class. Before long, she had quite a hit on her hands. Whether discussing curling tactics or granting a sneak peek at her training habits, “Curl Up” has something to offer for curlers of any skill level.

She laughs, “Most of the time, it’s just a tripod in my apartment. It’s really awkward.”

Don’t believe her. There’s nothing awkward about Jamie Sinclair. She looks as comfortable on camera as she does out on the ice. Throw in her show’s strikingly high production values and it’s no wonder that “Curl Up With Jamie” has made waves in the curling world.

This one-woman operation has thrust Sinclair into the role of curling goodwill ambassador. And that is a job she fully embraces. Sinclair beams, “It’s just an unreal feeling to inspire people to get into the sport of curling and help people fall in love with it just like I did. As long as I can inspire some people to curl, I’m happy.”

Of course, the ultimate happiness for Jamie Sinclair lies in PyeongChang. But, to get there, her team must first see off two rivals at the Olympic Team Trials in November. There, years of practice and a lifetime of dreams will all come down to one chance to become Team USA. Talk about pressure.

But those immense stakes are exactly why Sinclair has dedicated her life to curling. Everything — individual matches, championships, even a trip to the Olympics — can come down to one shot being inch-perfect.

Thinking about it, her voice picks up a determined edge. “Personally, I do it for the thrill of throwing that last rock. I live for the pressure of throwing that draw to the button for the win.” If Jamie Sinclair gets that shot with a berth to the Olympics on the line, don’t bet against her.

 

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