KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The stands of the Wings Event Center are full of cowbells, passionate fans and cheers this week for the USA Curling National Championships.
"It’s been really awesome. These athletes are the best here in the U.S., and it’s great to bring them to Kalamazoo," President of the Kalamazoo Curling Club Marcus Gleaton said. "This is our third time hosting it so we really love it a lot."
About 80 curlers are at the tournament from different states with the goal to be the next National Curling Champions.
Among the sea of talent is the U.S. Gold Medal Curling Team.
"I’ve seen a lot of young kids in the audience too, and they’re all getting really into it, and cheering for everybody, there’s really a good uprising right now because of the Olympics and our gold medal this past year, so there is a lot of interest with people trying to learn the sport and get into it when they’re younger especially," said USA Head Performance Player Chase Sinnet.
The rise in enthusiasm comes as no surprise to Sinnet and fellow curlers.
The sport and event is alluring for many reasons.
"It’s just a bunch of mismatched things that come together to make this sport that you don’t really see anywhere else, like there is no where else where you’re really sliding on the ice with this flat foot and then you have these rocks that you’re sweeping on the ice," Sinnet said.
Gleaton says the atmosphere is unlike anything else.
"Interacting with the athletes, you can see as you pan the crowd, they’re literally within 10 feet of the athletes, and they’re slapping them high fives as they go up and down the sheet."
And third-most, the opportunity to meet future champions.
"These guys are all, and the ladies, they’re all competing to be the best team in the U.S. and in 2, 3 more years, they’re gonna have a competition to see who will represent the U.S. at the next Olympic cycle," said Gleaton.
The USA Curling National Championships continues through Feb. 16.
For a full schedule, click here.