Danish curler Madeleine Dupont hesitates for an extra millisecond before she’s about to say what’s really on her mind during a game.
That’s because every little word she says — whether it’s discussing strategy, cheering on a teammate or venting about a missed shot — can be heard around the world.
All curlers wear a microphone during games, a concept that casual viewers get reacquainted with every four years during the Winter Olympics. Anyone watching a curling broadcast knows exactly where the next stone is supposed to end up — or not end up. They can hear the raw emotions of the athletes, the heavy breathing as they desperately sweep, the breathless yells for their teammate to go “Hard!”
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Imagine if Super Bowl viewers could hear every word that Joe Burrow or Matthew Stafford say in the huddle on Sunday.
“If this was my first time doing it, I think it would be very strange,” Dupont said. “But now I've done it for 20 years and then it's okay.”
If anything, curlers constantly being aware that their conversations on the ice are not private keeps them from “saying something rude,” according to Dupont.
“Having a mic on just reminds me of trying to be the person that I strive to be, as opposed to sometimes letting emotions get the best of you,” said American skipper John Shuster.
Shuster’s teammate Matt Hamilton actually embraces the microphones. To him, wearing a mic is the coolest part of the sport because it allows curlers to show off their personality.
“The fact that you get to know exactly what's running through our heads out on the ice just makes us that more relatable,” Hamilton said. “You're able to loosen up and have a good time."
Keeping it PG
Of course, all athletes have the urge to vent, and, occasionally, say words that aren’t allowed to be aired on live television. It’s an issue for Dupont, who enjoys having a broad vocabulary.
“You should hear how I talk normally, like that's my nightmare,” Dupont said. “I’m not rude to people, just swearing. I don't have kids, so I don't need to talk nice yet.”
According to Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg, if viewers hear swear words in Swedish, it definitely didn’t come out from behind her mask.
“Oh yes, but that does not come from me,” Hasselborg said. “It’s other teammates, right?”
Hasselborg said she never thinks about being mic’d up.
“Maybe I should be thinking a little bit more about what I’m saying, but I’m not,” Hasselborg said. “The fans will definitely get the real story.”
The international aspect of the Olympics also means that athletes from certain countries can breathe a little easier because the other team can’t understand them.
“I definitely think it's an advantage that we speak a language that nobody else speaks, because English, you could always hear what they're talking about,” Dupont said.
Hasselborg added that she doesn’t whisper too much in Swedish. But even if she can’t understand a certain language, she can still easily predict the other team’s strategy.
“I think curling language is international,” Hasselborg said. “There are no secrets in curling.”