Brother and sister duo Matt and Becca Hamilton will represent the U.S. in the first ever mixed doubles Olympic curling event in PyeongChang. They will also compete in both the men’s and women’s curling competitions set to start on February 14.
While both Hamiltons have been curling for more than a decade, they didn’t start playing together until about three years ago when it was announced mixed doubles would be coming to the Olympics. Once the possibility of mixed doubles being played in PyeongChang became a reality, Matt, now 28, and Becca, 27, decided they’d love to be able to compete together.
“Once it was an Olympic sport we were like ‘hey, they (The U.S. Olympic Committee) can help facilitate the prize to get there and we can go as a team, brother-sister combo,’" Matt said in a recent interview. "That’d be a great idea and a great story and fun to be on a team with someone I helped bring up and show her the ropes, and now she’s just as good as me and we’re playing at the highest level. So it’d be awesome.”
The duo had different coaches growing up, but spent every day after school on the ice together. Becca said that after growing up in the sport together, now getting to compete side-by-side shows how much their careers have intertwined.
“I think it’s kind of come full circle now that Matt kind of got me into curling and has taught me a lot of things along the way,” she said. “So to be doing it at this level is pretty surreal experience. Last year after winning nationals was one of my favorite nationals to win to win it with my brother.”
With both Hamilton’s now living in Madison, Wisconsin, and practicing at the same arena, they said it was only natural to turn to each other when mixed doubles became a possibility.
“As far as practice goes you can’t beat that time together,” Matt said. “And just knowing each other and having that kind of relationship early in our careers, it seemed like it made a lot of sense.”
Matt said it’s nice to not have to sugarcoat anything with his sister, and she’s good with constructive criticism.
Ultimately, he said they’re both each other’s biggest fan, which helps in both mixed doubles together and their individual events.
“If I were playing with someone I have a strictly professional relationship with, I don’t know how they’re going to take constructive criticism,” Matt said. “But I’ve kind of coached Becca going up and we’ve played a lot together and I’ve always kind of done it so I know that anything like that is going to be strictly positive and trying to help us, not hurt us.”
While Becca admits every day together isn’t sunshine and rainbows, she said the biggest thing she and her brother have learned is how to leave their issues off the ice while in competition mode.
“It’s different than playing with the girls I normally play with,” she said. “My brother’s a little more honest, blunt about missing shots. We have a great relationship but it definitely tests my patience a little bit. If me and Matt are fighting we’re not going to get anywhere on the ice. So we’ve come a long way to letting go and forgetting and moving on to the next shot. Since we’ve done that our performance has improved immensely.”
The duo had a stellar start to the 2017 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships, going through the round robin stages a perfect 7-0. However, they finally faltered in the early stages of the playoffs and ultimately finished 10th.
They won the 2017 National Championship, and Becca was named USA Curling’s Female Athlete of the Year that same year.
Matt lives by the motto “slow is smooth, smooth is fast,” something he said he first heard in the movie “Shooter” with Mark Wahlberg. The saying stuck with him because it reminds him of curling and the need to be both smooth and deliberate in the hack.
Matt says the phrase to himself every time before he throws.
“You’re ready to go and you can be ready to shoot when your shot comes and it’s just one of those things, like a tic that I do before I throw,” Matt said. “I put my glove behind the hack where I always do and get down in the hack, clean my rock, and I say that little
thing to help me take a breath, take an extra second and it’s just one of those things… It helps me remind me to do all the little things. It’s just kind of something I worked with my sports psych how I can harness my ability fully but stay consistent and stay ready and when I told her about this line from the movie I really liked she just loved it and thought it was a great idea to try to incorporate it. Because curling’s one of those games, it’s a smooth game but you’re timed and you got to play with pace so it’s just one of those things, ‘slow is smooth, smooth is fast,’ it made sense and here we are and it’s paid off so far.”
- While Norway may be the team most known for their fashion flair, Matt isn’t shy about making his own way to stand out. He actually makes his own shoes for the ice.
“I’m a very out there, loud kind of guy,” he said. “I’ve been wearing purple high top Jordans all season. I do my own little thing to make it my own.
“Little bit of glue, Velcro and a lot of love. I just attach the slider, which has Velcro on it, to another piece of Velcro on the bottom of my shoe that I glue on. Sometimes it takes a little maintenance but for the most part they hold up pretty good and it works out.”
- Becca grew up playing lacrosse and soccer, but ultimately gave them up once she started travelling more for curling.
“I went down to watch my brother, he was finishing up a tournament and his coach forced me out on the ice and I guess I never looked back after that,” she said. “I was just in my soccer warm-ups so he asked me to go out on the ice and he had me slide down just to get comfortable sliding on the ice, not in the curling form just walking down to the other side of the ice and back. And I was like this is awful, I do not want to be out here right now.”
When she first got started in the sport, she got nervous when other people would watch her practice and preferred to do it alone.
“When I was picking it up slowly but surely, I was good or pretty good for a new curler. And he’d (Matt) be like ‘hey Becca, do you want to go down and practice?’ And I’d be like ‘Is anyone going to be there?’ He’s like ‘Yeah, probably.’ ‘No I’m good then!’ Thank goodness I got it out of my system and now it doesn’t bother me.”
Twitter: @heccabamilton; @MattJamilton
The Hamilton’s will compete in the very first competition of the Winter Games Wednesday against Team OAR at 7:05 p.m. eastern time.