Former area resident to compete in Olympic Curling Trials

When Stephanie Sambor moved to White Bear Lake, Minn., in January, it was the first time she lived outside of North Dakota.

This week, the 29-year-old physical therapist will return to her home state with the chance to become an Olympian. Sambor and three teammates begin round-robin play in the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials at 7 p.m. Monday at Fargo’s Scheels Arena.

Each of the four women’s teams will play the other three squads twice, with the top two advancing to a best-of-three final this weekend.

Sambor, a Bismarck High and University of North Dakota graduate, lived in Williston from 2009 to 2011 before coming to Minot until her move to Minnesota. She said her parents were involved in curling, so she eventually tried the sport in high school.

Despite not winning a single game in her first tournament, Sambor stuck with it.

Now, she’s competing with two 2006 Olympians, Cassie Potter and Jamie Haskell. Potter is the skip – the player in charge of strategy and throwing the final two rocks of each end (a term for how curling games are divided, like innings in baseball). The group qualified for the Trials by finishing runner-up at the 2012 Nationals.

“They both have a lot of experience and would like to return to the Olympics, and obviously do better than they did last time,” Sambor said of Haskell and Potter, who finished 2-7 during the 2006 Games. “We’ve been training three out of four weekends per month for the last two years. We have expectations that we’re going to play every team tough and hopefully win the whole thing.”

Sambor plays the lead position, meaning she throws the first two stones and sweeps the other six. Her throws set up the team’s guard and determine the strategy for the remainder of each end.

Like most elite curlers, Sambor holds a full-time job, providing physical therapy during home visits. She said the keys to balancing training and work are to schedule practice time as if it were a patient, and “not a lot of sleep.”

The winning women’s team at the Trials gets automatic qualification into the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The winning men’s squad advances to a final qualification event in Fussen, Germany, in December.

Daniel Allar covers Minot State University athletics. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.