Not many people can say they have skied with Olympian Lindsay Vonn; skated against speedskaters Shani Davis or Janesville native Tucker Fredricks, or snowboarded with Shaun White.
Shelly Kosal hasn’t done any of those things either. But the Edgerton woman has competed against a pair of U.S. Olympic athletes—Matt and Becca Hamilton of McFarland. The brother and sister are competing in mixed doubles curling in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Kosal was there on the ground floor—or ice—when they started.
“They started curling out of the club I belong to when they were juniors,” Kosal said Thursday night. “They are really down-to-earth good people. They can be media darlings.”
The 57-year-old Kosal is no slouch at the sport herself. Her team, or rink, has earned three national titles and earned a bronze medal in the 2014 World Senior Championships in Scotland. Kosal and her teammates, Margie Smith, Debbie Dexter and Peggy Gazzola—all of Minnesota—just won their fourth senior national championship two weeks ago in Duluth.
By winning the national title, the Smith rink earned a berth in the 2018 World Championships that will be held in Ostersund, Sweden from April 21-28.
Curling as been part of Kosal’s life since she was a youngster in Lodi.
“It was a family thing,” Kosal said. “I played with my parents.”
The sport was so popular in the area that Lodi High had a team.
Kosal kept active in the sport. She married Scott Kosal, and the couple moved to Edgerton about 10 years ago to be closer to Interstate 90. Scott works on the northeast side of Chicago.
Shelly, who has worked 34 years at Spring Window Fashions in Madison, met her present teammates during a tournament in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“It’s a ritual that after the competition is over, you sit down at a table and visit with the other players and maybe have a couple of adult beverages,” Kosal said. “I found out Margie Smith was the same age as I was and was born just four days apart.”
That was enough to get the Smith rink going. Kosal, Smith, Dexter and Gazzola went 8-0 at this year’s national championship and are making plans for their trip to Sweden. They are together this weekend in Brainerd, Minnesota to keep their edge.
The U.S. Curling Association pays for some of the cost—mainly to pay for uniforms.
“Most of it falls on our shoulders,” Kosal said.
Scott will be going, along with Kosal’s two sisters and the Kosals’ stepdaughter. It is the same group that went to Scotland in 2014.
“We went over early, did some sightseeing, curled and then came home,” Kosal said. “We took in some of the sights like St. Andrew’s and some of the castles in the area.
“Scotland has great fans of the game. It was a wonderful experience.”
Kosal doesn’t expect anything less in Sweden, and expects to have success.
“We are all active,” she said. “We invest a lot of time and energy in this.”
Curling has become so popular that there were teams at this year’s national tournament from Arizona, New York and Maryland.
Kosal will never be in the Olympics like the Hamilton “kids” she watched over at the Madison club.
Being part of the best national senior women’s team works just fine.
Tom Miller is a sports writer/page designer for The Gazette.