Eau Claire high school student qualifies for the Youth Olympic Games

Anya Normandeau

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Charlie Thompson competes in the curling Youth Olympic Trials in Golden, Colorado on October 3-6. He won and will advance to the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland in January. © Anya Normandeau 2019

By Anya Normandeau

It’s quiet out on the ice as opponent Coleman Thurston slides out to throw one rock to the house for the win. The rock slides out of his hand and glides down the ice, past the opponent’s rocks, through the house and out of bounds. Charlie Thompson had just won the Youth Olympic curling trials.

After curling competitively for six years, Thompson, a 17-year-old student at Memorial High School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, decided to compete in the trials for the curling Youth Olympic Games that will be held in Switzerland in January.

“My big goal was to go win this thing, kind of go out with a bang in the curling world,” Thompson said. “This feels like what my curling career has built up to and I am okay if this is kind of what it is.”

Thompson started curling at the age of three when his father took him out on the ice. He has been curling for about 14 years and had decided he wanted to curl more competitively instead of recreationally.

His first junior national events included two Under 18 and two Under 21 junior national events, his first being in Detroit, Michigan. After attending those events, he decided to compete for the Youth Olympic Games.

While practicing with his team and individually, Thompson prepared his mind for the toughness of the sport. He did that by focusing more on his game rather than outside factors that may distract him.

“Whenever I play poorly, it’s usually because I’m way in my head either about curling or something else,” Thompson said. “Going into this event I was learning to clear my mind and focus on muscle memory.”

As a team, they competed in a couple of extra tournaments and had a few team practices during the summer as well.

Although these are all important aspects of curling, he knows it will take more than training and practice to become a Youth Olympic athlete; sacrifice, commitment, and persistence are key factors to his success.

The Youth Olympic Games will run from January 7-23. Thompson describes this as “prime time” as he will miss the last week of the first semester and the first week of the second semester. He understands he may be sacrificing a couple of decimals off of his GPA. He says he is okay with this considering he will be representing The United States.

“I get to be a part of Team USA which is not something a lot of people get to do,” Thompson said.

Thompson says he would not be where he is today if it were not for his own commitment to curling. After being involved in two leagues at the Eau Claire Curling Club and going out to practice, he knows the impact of making sure he is committed.

Coach and former curling Olympian, John Benton describes Thompson as a technician.

“He is very focused on the technical aspects of his delivery, his sweeping,” Benton said. “He really wants to make sure he is in the right position to make shots.”

Benton believes that Thompson has always been persistent in his curling career, from showing up to practice early, staying late, spending extra time practicing. Benton believes that along with having leadership qualities, Thompson sets the tone of the team as he understands his own role on the team.

League teammate and friend, Becca Rodgers, said Thompson has qualities of all three, sacrifice, commitment, and persistence. As a competitive curler herself, she understands that traveling and practicing so much requires a lot of sacrifices.

“Especially when you’re in high school and might be missing out on normal high school things to curl,” she said. The Youth Olympic Games are one thing she believes Thompson will be willing to sacrifice many things for.

Although Thompson might be missing out on a few things in school, he is still looking forward to being a part of this Youth Olympic Games experience.

“I hope to have an experience I remember and treasure for the rest of my life,” Thompson said. “The curling aspect is one part obviously, but I get an opportunity to meet people from tons of countries. That’s what I’m excited for most.”