A Humble Olympic Athlete Hopeful

Alex Gallucci

No matter what level of sports one might examines – whether it’s high school, college or even the professional circuit – talent is never lacking. But if there’s one quality that defines the character of a true athlete, the kind that we aspire as children to become, it’s humility.

Yes, victories and record-breaking are all well and good, but those athletes who achieve this while maintaining an air of modesty are nothing short of remarkable. They are the type that, given the choice, would rather spend the time practicing where others would waste promoting their own accomplishments.

Despite the fact that many professional athletes seem to be motivated only by fame and wealth, there are still those athletes who do it for their own sense of personal accomplishment, and more importantly, for the love of the game.

Villanova senior and Olympic hopeful Laura Hallisey has recently qualified for the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials just weeks prior. A Medfield, Mass., native, Hallisey was introduced to curling at a young age. As a child, she spent many hours at Broomstones Curling Club outside of Boston, where her parents, also curlers, practiced and played. At the age of 9, she began curling competitively because of the encouragement of her club, which supported juniors from the area in competition. As a junior, Broomstones provided an intense but encouraging program that worked to improve its athletes’ strategy, mental toughness, nutrition and fitness.

Hallisey teamed up to compete with three other juniors from Broomstones in 2003. Coincidentally, her teammates had started curling just as she had, and their families had been friends through the club ever since they were young. In their second year of competition together, Hallisey and her team’s hard work began to pay off, as they qualified for the Junior National Championships as Team Massachusetts. The team earned an impressive fifth place in its first appearance at nationals, but that was only the beginning. They returned even stronger and won second place in 2006 and 2007. Despite separating when they enrolled in their respective universities, Hallisey and her team continued their success in the junior circuit, taking three consecutive Grand National Curling Club titles, a competition that encompasses all curling clubs in New England and the Mid-Atlantic.

Since the junior level of eligibility constitutes curlers under the age of 21, Hallisey continued competing at the junior level until just last year. Although separating from her team of five years was no easy task, it was made easier when she got a phone call from two-time Olympian and five-time National Champion, Erika Brown, who asked Hallisey to play with her. Hallisey, delighted at the thought of competing with a woman of such an impressive background, immediately obliged. From September through December 2008, the team of Hallisey, Brown, Nina Spatola of Wisconsin and Nina Reiniger of Vancouver advanced to the semifinals in five out of six competitions, and earned the champion title on two separate occasions. In the Olympic Trials Qualifier in Ardsley, N.Y., the team went 8-0 for a win that qualified them as one of ten teams to compete in the Olympic Trials in Denver.

Due to its geographic dispersion, the team does not have the opportunity to practice together and only meets for competitions. However, this has not deterred from their success, as they were the top U.S. curling money winners in 2008.

In just a few short days, Hallisey’s team will travel to Denver for the week-long U.S. Trials. A nine game round robin tournament will produce the four teams that will battle in the semifinals for the top spot: a bid to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

“If we were to qualify for the Olympics, I don’t know where that could take me,” Hallisey says.

But for now, she says she’s taking it one year at a time and plans to attend pharmacy school following the completion of her five year joint Bachelors and Masters degree.

No matter the outcome at the Olympic Trials, Hallisey says that curling has taught her quite a few lessons in responsibility and time management that will certainly stay with her for life. Despite the stress of scheduling her time for practices and games, booking flights for competitions and managing her schoolwork, she maintains that she’s not the only one who deserves the credit.

“I could not get through it without all my friends at school,” Hallisey says. “All of them give me so much support, whether it be taking notes for me when I’m away, giving me rides to and from the airport or just giving me emotional support. And I couldn’t do it without them.”

As she prepares for the biggest curling event of her career, Hallisey is cool and at ease. Her confidence is helped by the fact that the team is familiar with their competition, having faced many of them earlier this season. Just because you’ve beaten a team before, doesn’t guarantee you repeated success though, Hallisey says.

“Any team is beatable on a certain day – you just have to catch them on a bad one,” she says. “Curling has some degree of luck in it, and crazy things can always happen, which is why upsets are so common.”