Olympic medallists savour surreal moments after PyeongChang 2018

  • Anna Hasselborg and Sara McManus on the Olympic podium after their victory © WCF / Richard Gray

Competing at the Olympic Winter Games is something that many athletes dream about their whole lives - it's the pinnacle of sport, after all. But, even with all the hopes and dreams surrounding the Games, only a small selection of athletes worldwide will ever have the honour of competing at the highest-level while being surrounded by the Olympic rings.

It takes a special type of person to become an Olympian. Not just anyone can tolerate the years of sacrifice and dedication, in pursuit of being the best in the game. Olympians, regardless of their performance at the Games, will return back to their normal lives with memories they can cherish for a lifetime.

But, for those who return from the Olympics with less weight off their shoulders and more weight around their necks, from an Olympic medal, life changes a little bit more.

For the women's curling Olympic gold medallists, Sweden, it began the moment they stepped off the ice after their win against Korea. "I think the calmest moment was on the ice, actually," said Anna Hasselborg, skip of Sweden at the Ford World Women's Curling Championship 2018 in North Bay, Canada. "It was so calm, and so nice, but after that it was very much media and a lot of people."

In today's day and age of social media, it's tough to be present in everyday situations - let alone the moment you win Olympic gold. "We stopped for a moment and told each other, "just try to enjoy this, just try to be in the moment, don't rush, just take it easy," and it was an amazing day," said Hasselborg.

All three of the Olympic medallists competing at the World Women's have similar sentiments about the hardware they took home - disbelief! So much focus is put on winning a medal, that reaching such a goal takes time to sink in for any elite athlete.

"The Olympics, regardless of the result is really mentally draining. Sometimes it just hits you that you won it. It's been really weird to reach one of those big goals that you fought really hard for," said Hasselborg.

It's evident the women are constantly reliving the high from the Games, as they're reminded of their accomplishments in moments they least expect. During the opening ceremony of the Ford World Women's Curling Championship 2018, Hasselborg led her team onto the ice in front of a Canadian packed crowd. They were introduced as "Team Sweden, Olympic gold medallists" and that's when Hasselborg candidly looked to her teammate, Sara McManus, grinning with disbelief.

"We came here, straight into the event, just very focused on this. Then they announced us as Olympic gold medallists and it's like "woah, that's us!" I think those kinds of things are just what helps us enjoy everything a little bit more," she said.

Kaitlyn Lawes, mixed doubles Olympic champion, [pictured above, © WCF / Richard Gray] echoes Hasselborg's sentiments about winning gold in PyeongChang.

"When we landed back in Canada we got welcomed with workers waving big Canada flags. It's amazing I got to go to the Olympics, let alone come back with two gold medals [including Olympic gold in Sochi 2014] is just so special," Lawes said.
Team Korea, in the eyes of the world, became overnight celebrities earning the silver medal after dropping the Olympic final to Sweden. Once the Koreans received their medals, they thought it was just another medal - no different than winning on the curling tour.

"They had good feelings, but it didn't feel real," said Korea coach MinJung Kim. "We felt it was so exciting, but we just stayed in the athlete's village until the ceremony and nothing really changed."

Korea had their moment of realisation while walking into the closing ceremony alongside the rest of team Korea, in their home country. "After the ceremony, we talked about how we are happy to get the silver medal and everything felt different then," said Kim.
Between meet and greets with the King of Sweden, to dropping the puck at the Winnipeg Jets NHL game to starring in national commercials and lighting the Paralympic torch [pictured above, © OIS / Thomas Lovelock] - the Olympic medallists have been busy embracing the perks of being an Olympic medallist. While these expeditions are always an honour for the athletes, it doesn't make winning an Olympic medal seem any more real.

Lawes said it best, "I don't think it will ever sink in."

To engage with the World Curling Federation on social media in the build to the World Men's Curling Championship 2018 follow it on Twitter, Instagram (@worldcurling) and Facebook (/WorldCurlingFederation) and use the hashtags when posting: #WMCC2018 #curling