Denmark on digging deep in pursuit of Olympic places

  • © WCF / Richard Gray

Denmark's women's and men's curling teams secured the very last places at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, when they qualified through the Olympic Qualification Event 2017, in Pilsen, Czech Republic.

For skip Madeleine Dupont, it took pulling out one of the shots of her career to secure a win over Italy in the final game in Czech Republic, last December.

Denmark women went on to win that game by a single point, 5-4, to secure their ticket to the Games.

For Madeleine Dupont this will be a second Olympic Winter Games, having competed in Vancouver 2010. Also, for sister and third Denise it's a third Games. Denise represented Denmark in Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010 previously. The rest of the team is second Julie Hoegh, lead Mathilde Halse and alternate Lina Almind Knudsen, who will all be first time Olympians.

A third Dupont sibling, brother Oliver, will also be travelling to the Games, for the first time, as part of Rasmus Stjerne's foursome.

For this team, the past seasons have been mixed - going from having to fight for a place in the European A-Division to winning world silver medals at the World Men's Curling Championship 2016, in Basel, Switzerland - all in the same season. Achieving world silver is the highest achievement of any Danish team ever.

Results like that show the determination of this team, which is made up of skip Stjerne - for whom this will be his second Games, after Sochi 2014 - third Johnny Frederiksen, second Mikkel Poulsen - who both competed at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 - lead Dupont and alternate Morten Berg Thomsen.

Let's meet the teams…

Team Denmark (Women): Madeleine Dupont (skip)

Q: How does it feel qualifying for the Olympics?

Beyond fantastic! Winning the play-off game at the Olympic qualifiers was such a gigantic relief and achievement, and the most amazing feeling ever!

Q: Do you have nicknames within the team and what's the story behind them?

We came up with mega skip (Maddie) and mini skip (Mathilde Halse) lately. It happened one day, where I jokingly called Mathilde mini skip. Since then, the names have stuck.

Q: What music do you listen to prior to events?

Taylor Swift and AC/DC are some of the usual suspects we play during warm up. The Pitch Perfect soundtrack or other musical hits sneak in now and then. The most important thing is, that it's something you can sing and dance to.

Q: Who is the joker of the team and why?

Mathilde [pictured below, © WCF / Richard Gray]. She comes up with silly jokes as often as possible. It's gonna be interesting when they mic her up during the Olympics.

Q: Who is the most serious member of the team and why?

None of us are super serious, but on the sheet, it's probably me, who must control the troops. No matter if we are on or off the ice, we are always trying to have as much fun as possible.

Q: What do you do in your spare time to relax?

Julie (Hogh) cleans and Lina (Almind Khudsen) dances. The rest of us read or watch Netflix or walk.

Q: Greatest achievement as a rink and tell us a bit about it?

There have been two major achievements this year. The team played their first game together in September and barely knew each other. Two weeks later we had to win a best of five series against another Danish team to get to represent Denmark at the Europeans and Olympic qualifiers. We lost the first two, however found all the stubbornness and willpower we had within ourselves, and fought back to win the last three games.

That gave us the ticket to the qualifiers in Pilsen in December, where we exceeded our own and everyone else's expectations by getting one of the two spots for the Olympics. No one had ever dared to dream or hope that it was possible, so to prove everyone wrong and show how far the team had come in such a short time, was an incredible achievement.

Team Denmark (Men)

Q: How does it feel qualifying for the Olympics?

Oliver: Amazing feeling! It is the dream for me and the reason why I started 20 years ago. Three of the others have tried it before, so hearing their stories from the Olympics, that makes me look even more forward to it
Morten: It's an incredible feeling to qualify for the Olympics for the first time and having this experience with these guys is going to be amazing! It will be something you will remember for life.
Rasmus: It's a major achievement for us to qualify as a team again. It's been a rollercoaster ride playing in the world championships in 2016 and then missing out in 2017. We have worked hard this season to punch our ticket.
Johnny: It feels fantastic to qualify for a third time.

Q: Do you have nicknames within the team and what's the story behind them?

Oliver: Pliver. When starting at golf, the golf club pressed the letter P instead of O, so when calling the names, Pliver was called with no response. But, it was apparently me and thereby my new nickname!
Morten: Kongen - The King. I was named Kongen as I had been in the Royal Guards (regiment of the Danish Army).
Mikkel: Po - first two letters of my last name, Poulsen. It came about as there were two of us with the same name. I'm also called Pølle, no idea why, but Johnny came up with it.
Johnny: Frede is short for Frederiksen. Gilbert - the team thinks it's the secret middle name my parents never officially gave me. JB - short for Johnny boy and Arne is my dad's middle name that Rasmus adopted and uses frequently on the ice.
Rasmus: "Stjerne" is probably the most obvious, without bragging too much it means star in Danish. But the real reason is my great-great-great granddad used to navigate on the seas using the stars.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Oliver: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Unbelievable tempting - yet so unhealthy.
Morten: Wine - especially a good bottle of Italian red wine.

Mikkel: Beer.
Johnny: Candy.
Rasmus: Pizza and diet coke on Sundays. And during summertime, cookie dough ice-cream is a winner.

Q: What music do you listen to prior to events?

Rasmus: Music from Drengene fra Angora (a Danish comedy series). Teams favourite build up song is AC/DC - Thunderstruck.

Q: Where's the best place you have visited as a curler?

Oliver: Las Vegas - Continental Cup 2017 (United States)
Morten: It's going to be PyeongChang (Republic of Korea)
Mikkel: Victoria, Vancouver Island 2013 (Canada)
Johnny: Vancouver Olympics 2010
Rasmus: Sochi Olympics 2014 (Russia)

Q: What career would you have if you weren't a curler?

Oliver: I would have chased my dream of becoming an architect or my current career, but putting some more hours and focus into it.
Morten: My current career with A.P. Moller - Maersk as Senior Pricing Manager in Maersk Line.
Mikkel: What I'm doing now, airplane mechanic.
Johnny: My current work, Financial consultant.
Rasmus: Since all players on the team is working full time besides me. I'm working as a software developer.

Q: Who is the joker of the team and why?

Rasmus: Our coach, Mikael Qvist, is the team joker [pictured above, ©WCF / Alina Pavlyuchik]. He has no limits and we love the energy he brings to the team. He absolutely doesn't care what other people think of him and that makes him special. Don't be surprised if he starts dancing during the Olympic parade.

Q: Who is the most serious member of the team and why?

Rasmus: Morten was brought into this team this season. Morten is super busy working at the biggest company in Denmark juggling a 50 hour work week with an intense curling lifestyle. His systems have been a great asset to the team.

Q: What do you do in your spare time to relax?

Oliver: Taking long naps or walking to the closest coffee shops to try new coffee.
Morten: Taking naps, drinking coffee with Oliver and Johnny and gaming.
Mikkel: Watching TV or browsing 9GAG.
Rasmus: I'm semi addicted to gaming/ e-sports. And during the summer I love golf.
Johnny: Watch TV, rest and coffee with Oliver.

Q: Greatest achievement as a rink and tell us a bit about it?

Rasmus: Winning the silver medal at the World Men's Curling Championship 2016 was a major achievement! Five months earlier we were playing the European B-Division, trying to get Denmark back into the A-Division and thereby earn some Olympic points.

Winning the B-Division gave Denmark the right to get back into the world championship, but only a week after we had to qualify nationally for the spot at the worlds. This was mentally exhausting, but we got through it and won in the fifth out of five finals.

So, suddenly finding ourselves in the World final against Canada, fighting for one of the biggest trophies. It was a week where everything worked perfectly.

In the run-up to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea we celebrate the success of the curling qualifiers heading to the Games in (8-25) February and (9-18) March.

In recent weeks and months, we have been speaking to the athletes that have been selected or qualified to represent their Member Association in the Gangneung Curling Centre.

To follow the build-up to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, follow us on Twitter, Instagram (@worldcurling) and Facebook (/WorldCurlingFederation) and use the hashtags: #Roadto2018 #curling

by Michael Houston, feature writer