Team Thomas Ulsrud’s legacy: Rivalries, Vancouver and pants
We take a look back at some of the Norwegians' finest moments.
It’s hard to fathom the impact four men from Norway have had on a sport. Many leave their mark on sport by their numerous accolades, or the maverick nature of their play but few combine both to ensure a legacy for years to come.
A total of 11 European championship appearances, eight showings at the worlds and three Olympic campaigns have brought the Oslo outfit much acclaim.
Thomas Ulsrud, the skip, embodies the spirit of the team: fun and jovial, while being fiercely competitive and hungry for success. While his vice-skip, Torger Nergaard, has been a constant sidekick over the years – they even played alongside each other at the 1992 World Juniors.
The pair had success, winning the odd medal but it was the introduction of Haavard vad Petersson and Christoffer Svae in 2007 which provided a giant boost to the team’s fortunes.
It was 2010 when heads were turned, eyes were caught, and mouths were left agape. In a sport famed for its tradition, the attires generally followed suit with a lack of colour and glamour.
In stepped Team Ulsrud at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver dressed in harlequin-patterned trousers. The aim was to feel a little more comfortable in training before being goaded into wearing them during the games.
If comfort was the goal, it certainly did the trick. It’s the moment which the team listed as their most memorable from their time together.
“It was super nerve-wracking but very special for us,” reflects the 47-year-old Ulsrud. “We didn’t know what to expect or how our opponents would feel. But luckily, I guess, it worked out for us and we didn’t stop.”
It was the foursome’s first outing at an Olympics, and not only did they push fashion boundaries but they went home with a silver medal – an accomplishment that Ulsrud cherishes to this day. “I think looking back we were at our first Olympics and didn't know what to expect but we were just happy to be there, and people don’t get many chances to win gold at the Olympics.
“Those ten days in Vancouver are some of greatest memories I have as a curler and a person.”
It’s something that lead Petersson echoes, alongside their world title four years later. “I think making the Olympic final in Vancouver and winning the world championship in 2014 are the highlights from our time together.
“Our best years were probably from 2009 to 2011 – we had so much fun and we dominated quite a bit in Europe.”
It was those European rivalries with fellow Scandinavian outfit Team Niklas Edin and Scotland’s Team David Murdoch which epitomised an era when Canada’s dominance of the sport was challenged.
“We beat Niklas quite a few times but he always managed to beat us in the big moments – which is his biggest strength,” said Petersson. “But we did beat him in one European final, which is great to think back on.
“Winning that first European gold in 2010 was very special for us and one of my best memories.”
Nergaard adds that their tussles with Kevin Martin’s rink – which included the Olympic final – were also memorable, despite them losing 17 of their 18 encounters. But it is typical of the team to highlight a rivalry, albeit one they were on the wrong side of, as one of their favourites.
It was 1988 when Ulsrud claimed his world junior bronze medal and 31 years later, moments before playing his last game with the team, he admitted it had been “one hell of a ride”.
“It was incredibly emotional stepping onto the ice for the final time – it was truly special. We have had 12 amazing years filled of good moments together and it provided us a reminder that we used to be good when we were younger!
“My wife has a lot of memorabilia and now I will have the chance to look at them all and enjoy those memories. It’s going to be different next year. I’m going to miss these guys so much on and off the ice. I can guarantee that next year will be super strange.
“Maybe next Christmas when we have a lot of drinks, if you win a game you are punished and have to drink a lot – maybe that will be next. Some bonspiels could be on the cards, but we are going to enjoy it.
Whether it was throwing stones on their side, posing half-naked for charity or collecting accolades around the world, Team Ulsrud always knew how to bring joy to the sport. From their victory in Beijing to bowing out back in the Chinese capital at the Curling World Cup Grand Final, the four men from Oslo have certainly made their mark.