Curling only slides its way into the consciousness of most sports fans every four years, when the Winter Games come around and millions are riveted to their TV screens, shouting at the graceful, slow-motion drama on the ice. But the greats hone their skills year-round. At the 2018 Games, there will be even more curling, thanks to the addition of mixed doubles, making its Olympic debut in PyeongChang. Still, the biggest names in the sport are little-known outside of the relatively small, if passionate, fan base. Here, as a primer for the uninitiated, are 12 of the sport’s superstars. (Pictured: Sweden's Anette Norberg throws the stone during the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.)

Smooth Operators: 12 Legends of Curling

The biggest names in curling are little-known outside of the sport's relatively small, if passionate, fan base. Here are some of its superstars.

TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images Curling only slides its way into the consciousness of most sports fans every four years, when the Winter Games come around and millions are riveted to their TV screens, shouting at the graceful, slow-motion drama on the ice. But the greats hone their skills year-round. At the 2018 Games, there will be even more curling, thanks to the addition of mixed doubles, making its Olympic debut in PyeongChang. Still, the biggest names in the sport are little-known outside of the relatively small, if passionate, fan base. Here, as a primer for the uninitiated, are 12 of the sport’s superstars. (Pictured: Sweden's Anette Norberg throws the stone during the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.) Torger Nergaard, Norway TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images Torger Nergaard, Norway The 43-year old Norwegian has been curling since 1987, showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. He has largely served as a third for his teams over the years, which have taken home countless European Championship and World Championship medals. Additionally, they won gold in Salt Lake City (2002) and silver in Vancouver (2010). He will be participating in the 2018 Games. Kevin Martin, Canada Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Kevin Martin, Canada Martin, “The Old Bear,” was one of the most decorated curlers of all-time. He only appeared in the Olympics twice, but medaled in both of them, winning silver in Salt Lake City (2002) and gold in front of a home crowd in Vancouver (2010). Martin also advanced the game off the ice, helping to create the “Grand Slam of Curling.” Cathrine Lindahl, Eva Lund, and Anette Norberg, Sweden ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images Cathrine Lindahl, Eva Lund, and Anette Norberg, Sweden Only one skip in Olympic history has managed to defend their title in successive Olympics: Anette Norberg. Along with sister Cathrine Lindahl and Eva Lund, the Swedes dominated at both the Turin (2006) and Vancouver (2010) games. All three are now retired from the sport. (Pictured: Cathrine Lindahl releases a stone in Vancouver, 2010.) Eva Lund, Sweden ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images Eva Lund, Sweden Lund celebrates after Sweden defeated China 9-4 in the women's curling semifinal at the Winter Olympics in 2010. Anette Norberg, Sweden Alex Livesey/Getty Images Anette Norberg, Sweden Norberg is, arguably, the best female skip in history, with two Olympic golds, three world championships, and seven European championships under her belt. Warren Hansen, Canada Ron Bull/Toronto Star via Getty Images Warren Hansen, Canada Hansen (pictured sweeping, left) won just one World Championship medal in his curling career, a silver in 1974. His contributions, however, make him a legend. He helped establish curling as a demonstration sport during the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. In 2002, he contributed to the Continental Cup by developing the mixed doubles competition, which is now an Olympic discipline. He was elected to the World Curling Hall of Fame in 2016. Russ Howard, Canada JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images Russ Howard, Canada Howard competed at a professional level since around 1985, but he didn’t get his big Olympic shot until the middle 2000s. He played second for the team that won the 2006 Olympic gold, the first men’s curling gold in Canadian history. He also became the oldest Canadian gold medalist at the age of 50. He was inducted to the World Curling Hall of Fame in 2015. Patrick Huerlimann, Switzerland Tony Marshall - EMPICS Patrick Huerlimann, Switzerland In 1998, Huerlimann won a gold medal in Nagano. That was just the start of his curling legacy. By 2010, he was the Vice President of the World Curling Federation. As an executive, he developed the system used to rank various countries by their curling acumen. He was inducted into the World Curling Hall of Fame in 2014. Elisabet Gustafson, Switzerland ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images Elisabet Gustafson, Switzerland Gustafson’s only Olympic medal was a bronze earned in Nagano in 1998. Nevertheless, she’s one of the all-time greats, as she won gold four times at the worlds (in addition to two bronzes), more than any other woman. A medical doctor, she was inducted into the World Curling Hall of Fame in 2012. (Pictured: Gustafson directing her teammates in 2002.) Sandra Schmirler, Canada Gary M. Prior/Getty Images Sandra Schmirler, Canada Three world championships were never going to be enough for “Schmirler the Curler.” So when the curling women were invited to the Olympics for the first time in 1998, the Canadian led her team to the inaugural gold medal. Tragically, cancer took her just two years later at the age of 36. She was posthumously awarded the prestigious Freytag Award in 2009. Bud Somerville, United States Robert Laberge/Getty Images Bud Somerville, United States If Americans need a curler to get behind (historically), Bud Somerville is the man. He won his first national championship back in 1965 and served as a leading man in the sport for the next three decades. He managed to play long enough to participate in two Olympics in 1988 and 1992, winning a bronze in the latter. The United States Curling Hall of Fame made him their first inductee in 1984 and he was awarded the Freytag Award in 2001. (Pictured: Somerville delivers the stone during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in 2002.)
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