OMAHA – The prizes lay on a table at Baxter Arena, gleaming under the light of the giant scoreboard overhead. Silver bowls and medals, all neatly lined up, ready to be awarded Saturday in case of a sweep at the Olympic curling trials.
Team Tabitha Peterson made sure the swag didn't need to be put away for another day. Peterson and her sister, Tara, became the first Minnesota athletes to make the U.S. Olympic team for the Beijing Winter Games, powering their team to an 11-4 victory over Team Cory Christensen. The win gave Team Peterson a sweep of the best-of-three trials finals, following an 8-7 victory in Friday's opener.
Christensen, of Duluth, conceded after eight ends. Her team fell behind 2-0 when Peterson stole one point in the first end and one in the second. Team Christensen tied it in the third, but Tabitha Peterson made a beauty of a shot in the fourth end to score three, and her team added six more points to put the match away.
The Beijing Games will be the second Olympics for four members of Team Peterson. Tabitha Peterson, Nina Roth, Becca Hamilton and alternate Aileen Geving competed at the 2018 Winter Games and finished with a 4-5 record.
Tabitha Peterson and Tara Peterson are from Eagan, and Geving is from Duluth. Roth and Hamilton are from McFarland, Wis.
"We're excited to put on a better showing than we did last time,'' Tabitha Peterson said. "We feel like we have a really good chance to be on the (Olympic) podium this time.
"We're definitely grooving. We've put a lot of work in, and we're seeing the reaps of all our hard work right now.''
Christensen struggled with her shotmaking in Game 2, giving up steals in several ends. Team Peterson had some errors, too, but it managed to avoid anything too costly. It ended the trials with an 11-1 record, winning its final 10 games.
"We got off to a little bit of a slow start and just weren't executing as well as we needed to, really, to win the game,'' said Christensen, the alternate for the 2018 Olympic team. "It just came down to execution, and Tab's team played great.''
The trials victory extends a magical year for Team Peterson. In May, it won bronze at the world championships, the first world championships medal for the U.S. women in 15 years.
The group has been reconfigured since the 2018 Olympics. At the Pyeongchang Games, Roth was skip, and Peterson played third. Peterson assumed the skip's duties when Roth had a baby in 2019, and things went so well she remained in that position after Roth returned.
Close bonds and trust have helped the group thrive. Before the trials, Peterson said they all get along extremely well, and all are committed to doing everything they can to make the team successful. That's been especially important over the past year and a half, when COVID restrictions meant the team competed less often.
"They've had a great season,'' Christensen said. "Tab has jumped into the skip position, and she's just phenomenal to watch. They're a great team.''
Saturday, Peterson pressured Team Christensen right from the start. Once Team Christensen missed some shots, Team Peterson pushed even harder. It scored in six of the eight ends, and every time Christensen scored, Peterson answered with multiple points in the next end.
Before the world championships, Hamilton said, the team knew what it was capable of achieving. Earning the bronze medal solidified its confidence.
Eight days of superb play at the Olympic trials have Team Peterson thinking even bigger, with the Beijing Games only 11 weeks away.
"We knew going into the worlds that we wanted to come away with a medal,'' Hamilton said. "We're just excited to move forward toward the Olympics now, and hopefully get on the podium there, too.''