When Katie Murphy’s mother, Jen, needed back surgery in February 2006 during the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, neither knew her time recovering would lead to a shared love for curling. Nearly 14 years later, that love has turned into a passion for Katie. The 17-year-old Fairview High School senior was recently named to the U.S. Youth Olympics curling team.
Growing up watching her parents compete at the Mayfield Curling Club in Lyndhurst, Katie knew it was something she wanted to do as well. She began curling when she was 9.
“I’ve had a passion (for curling from the first time I stepped on the ice,” Katie said. “It feels unbelievable to wear ‘USA’ on my back and represent our country in front of the world. I am excited to make everyone from my hometown of Fairview proud.”
Curling teams have four members: The lead (first thrower), second (second thrower), vice (third thrower) and skip (fourth thrower). Each takes turns throwing two rocks – granite stones that slide across the ice – and aims to get their rocks closest to the middle ring (button) of a multicolored bullseye-like target on the ice, known as “the house,” while also trying to knock their opponent’s rocks out of the house. While one team member is throwing, two others serve as sweepers, using specialized brooms to affect the speed and path of the rock on the ice.
Katie is the vice on her team that includes lead Alina Tschumakow from Boston, second Charlie Thompson from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and skip Ethan Hebert from Lowell, Massachusetts.
Charlie reached out to the other three to organize the team.
“Everyone knows everyone in the curling world, it’s so small,” Katie said. “They’re all strong curlers.”
The group qualified for the Youth Olympics by winning a national gold medal in Denver. Now, the team is in Lausanne, Switzerland, waiting to start pool play Thursday. The team’s pool consists of Italy, Latvia, Japan, the Czech Republic and Sweden.
If the U.S. team finishes either first or second in its pool, it will advance to the quarterfinal on Jan. 15, with the semifinals taking place the same day. The finals are on Jan. 16. Following that, Katie will take part in mixed-doubles play, where she is paired with a male athlete from another country based on performance in round one. Mixed-doubles pool play is Jan. 17- 21 and the semifinals and finals are Jan. 22.
National coach John Benton said that although the group had only one training weekend after qualifying, he was impressed at how quickly the players understood everything and the leadership that Katie showed.
“My primary focus with these kids was team dynamics and communication,” Benton said. “Katie’s not afraid to do the work. (She’s) a really mature young lady. I think the world of Katie from the standpoint of her maturity and leadership within the team.”
Katie is an avid golfer, like her mother, and used to play for the school team. Once Katie took up curling, though, Jen Murphy said it was evident that sport was her true love.
“Curling was really the only sport she had in her heart,” Jen Murphy said. “She probably, if she would have worked really hard, could’ve gotten a (golf) scholarship to college … but she didn’t love it. She loves curling. It really is the one thing that held her attention.”
As she prepared to perform on the international stage in front of her parents, family members and friends, who will be in the stands, Katie said this is where she’s hoped to be for the past three years. But she is surprised she’s there.
“I didn’t expect (to make it this far) from the start,” she said. “Internationally is beyond my wildest dreams. I don’t think when I was 9 I figured this was where I’d be.”
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