This week we turn to the second impressive white banner adorning the rampway into the icehouse by Sheet 6. A companion to the 2002 Senior Men’s World Championship banner, this one is from the following year, 2003, honoring the only U.S. women’s team that has ever won World’s (so far!). Two Madison Curling Club member names are on there: Debbie McCormick as skip and her father, Wally Henry, as coach.
The team came together in the wake of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Following that event’s 4 th place finish, skip Kari Erickson decided to take some time off from curling. Yet most of the remaining team members wanted to continue. They met to decide how to proceed. Debbie, who had played at vice and hadn’t skipped at that level before, said she’d like to try. Ann Swisshelm (Chicago) moved to second and Joni Cotten (Chicago) remained as alternate. To complete the team, Debbie recruited Allison Pottinger (St. Paul) to play vice and Tracy Sachtjen (Lodi) as lead.
The team proved to be a powerful combination of talent. “That whole year was kind of magical,” Debbie recalled. Wally detailed the team’s journey to Winnipeg, Manitoba where World’s was held. The team entered state playdowns through Illinois because it was the shortest route of their three options. After that win, they competed in Nationals in Utica, NY, and won that in a tight final game. Then it was on to World’s. Both Debbie and Wally noted the coincidence of Wally’s 1991 journey to World’s in which his men’s team, skipped by Steve Brown, competed in Nationals in Utica and then went on to Winnipeg for World’s as well.
Competing in Winnipeg was like hometown curling for both of them. Wally explained, “I grew up about 65 miles away in Manitoba. We had a lot of friends and relatives come to the games.” For Debbie, “Winnipeg is like a second home to me because both sets of grandparents lived there at the time. It was super exciting for me to compete in Canada in a World’s championship. And the crowd was
phenomenal; there were over 12,000 people there because the men’s and the women’s both played. That was a thrill.”
During Worlds, ten teams competed in the women’s round robin and Debbie’s team “didn’t have the best start.” After losing 4 out of their 8 games, they had to rally and win all their remaining games to qualify for the finals, something not achieved by any other team in the competition’s history. And they did win, beating Norway, then Sweden, then Sweden again in the semi-final. In a tight final game, they met Canada, skipped by Colleen Jones, winning 5-3.
Debbie credits their additional coach, Canadian world champ Ed Lukowich, with helping alleviate the pressure the team was under on their push to qualify and overcome their rocky start. “He brought the perspective to take this one game at a time. He had a good plan and every team loves a plan!” She reflected that Ed both took pressure off them but also lit a fire under them too. “That really helped me. It took some pressure off us on how to accomplish this but also he told us, ‘I know you can do better than this. Don’t give up.’ It was super motivating.”
Hard won, but with a sprinkle of magic, that win and its banner hold a place of honor in Madison Curling Club’s history.