Anchorage curler two wins away from Olympic berth

Beth Bragg

Anchorage curler Jessica Schultz is two victories away from a return trip to the Winter Olympics.

She's also two losses away from watching February's action in Sochi, Russia, from the sideline.

Schultz, a member of the 2006 Winter Olympics team, will play in a best-of-3 series beginning Friday in Fargo, N.D., to determine which women's team will represent the United States at the Olympics.

Schultz, 28, is a member of the Erika Brown rink that will take on the Allison Pottinger rink in the finale of the U.S. Olympic Trials. The first game is Friday, the second is Saturday and the if-necessary showdown is set for Sunday.

Schultz and her teammates eked out a 5-4 win over the Pottinger team Thursday to secure a spot in the playoffs; Pottinger's team clinched its spot the night before. Both teams posted 4-2 record in the four-team, round-robin portion of the trials.

Schultz is part of an all-star team captained by Brown, a 40-year-old seeking her third Olympic berth, the first coming in 1988 when curling was a demonstration sport. Everyone else on the team has Olympic experience too -- Schultz, Debbie McCormick (the skip of the 2010 U.S. team) and Ann Swisshelm (a 2010 Olympian).

Those four competed as a team at the world championships in March in Latvia, and their fourth-place finish secured an Olympic berth for the U.S. women, although just who will fill that berth won't be known until this weekend.

The U.S. men have yet to secure an Olympic berth -- they hope to do so in upcoming World Cup competition -- so the winning men's team in Fargo this weekend is not guaranteed a trip to Sochi.

Schultz lives in Minneapolis, where she works as a physical therapy assistant. She grew up in Anchorage and learned to curl at the Anchorage Curling Club when she a seventh grader. A year later, she was selected to play on a junior-level team, and her future as a competitive curler was sealed.

Her parents, Marty and Nancy, still live in Anchorage. They traveled to Fargo this week to watch their daughter compete.

Two other Alaska curlers -- Martin Sather and Colin Hufman, both of Fairbanks -- saw their Olympic dreams end in Fargo. Sather's team was mathematically eliminated earlier in preliminary play and Friday it beat Hufman's team to knock Hufman out of contention too. The men's best-of-3 finals is between the Pete Fenson rink and John Shuster rink.

Coverage of the men's and women's finals begins at 11:30 a.m. Friday on NBC Sports (cable Channel 39). Saturday's and Sunday's games will also be on TV.

Reach Beth Bragg at or 257-4335.