GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – Nina Roth and her teammates didn’t choose to play together. USA Curling created their alliance, selecting each of them separately for its high- performance program and then deciding they would work well as a group.
They did have a choice, though, about what kind of a team they were going to be. Once Roth, Tabitha Peterson, Aileen Geving and Becca Hamilton were assembled into a foursome in 2016, they discussed their ideas of what the perfect team would look like. All of them were on the same page, citing qualities such as mutual respect, friendship, work ethic and focus.
That means the bonds they share off the ice stay intact when they step into the hack, which helps explain how they won the right to represent the U.S. at the Olympics. Though they might as well be from feuding clans — Roth and Hamilton are from Wisconsin, and Peterson and Geving are Minnesotans — the four relish each other’s company. With that friendship as its rudder, Team Roth, which also includes alternate Cory Christensen of Duluth, will take on the biggest challenge of its two seasons together: trying to become the first U.S. women’s team to win an Olympic curling medal.
“When I got the call that the HPP was putting us together, I was so excited,” said Roth, of McFarland, Wis. “And this team just keeps exciting me over and over again.
“We’ve proven we can contend against a lot of the teams we’ll see at the Olympics. We’re pretty confident if we just keep plugging away and working hard, we will be contenders.”
Though the Team Roth partnership is relatively fresh, its members have a lot of history. During their time in USA Curling’s high-performance program, two or three of them played together in earlier seasons.
It didn’t take long for the group to mesh. At the 2017 U.S. championships, its first as a foursome, it finished as runner-up and earned a berth in the world championships based on its season points total. Team Roth was fifth at worlds, a springboard to an outstanding 2017-18 season.
Last fall, Team Roth won the Canad Inns Classic, beating Sweden’s Olympic team in the final and going 8-1 against a ledger of highly ranked teams. It currently is 14th in the World Curling Tour order of merit standings.
None of the group has Olympic experience, but not for lack of trying. Peterson, an Eagan native who now lives in Minneapolis, finished second at the 2014 Olympic trials. Geving, of Duluth, competed in the first of her four Olympic trials at age 16.
Once Geving began college at Minnesota Duluth, she spent less time with the sport as she got a degree in organizational management and started a career in the insurance industry. But the Olympic dream never faded.
“I had everything else in my life in order, except for that one goal,’’ she said. “Five years ago, I said, ‘I’m going for this.’ I didn’t want to have any regrets.”
Peterson, Team Roth’s vice-skip, was heartbroken after her near-miss at the 2014 trials. A pharmacist, she has worked reduced hours to devote more time to curling. She still plays in a Tuesday night league at the St. Paul Curling Club.
Geving described Roth as a fierce, spunky skip whose poise radiates to those around her. As its leader, her main job is to keep the team true to the ideals that have generated their friendship as well as their success.
“We all get along so well, and we have a common goal,’’ Geving said. “If we’re playing as well as we can and should, we’ve got a great chance.’’