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Curling Moms Perform Juggling Acts

VANCOUVER - Of the 93 female athletes competing for the U.S. at the Winter Olympics, six are mothers. Three of the six are on the curling squad, which has struggled early and is 0-2.

Balance, essential to good curling technique, is just as vital off the ice to these curling moms. Few competitors are performing better balancing acts than Allison Pottinger, Natalie Nicholson and Tracy Sachtjen.

"It's kind of a time management challenge," says Pottinger, vice skip from Eden Prairie, Minn., and mother of Lauren, 3, and Kelsey, 17 months.

"It's a lot of making sure that I do things early in the morning or late at night so that the time I spend with my girls and with my husband (Doug) is really time with them. You have to really compartmentalize."

Pottinger, who also works full time as a consumer insights researcher for General Mills, isn't the only one who's been juggling a profession with weeks on the road training and competing.

Nicholson, whose position is lead, is not only mom to 17-month-old Stella, but a nurse practitioner at North County Regional Hospital in Bemidji, Minn.

She decided not to put her dreams of being a mother on hold but learned quickly it's best not to bring Stella on the road.

"I feel it's important to keep her on her own schedule," Nicholson says. "so she doesn't travel at all. We took her to Winnipeg when she was 3-4 months old and anything that could go wrong went wrong. I just realized I worry about her more when I bring her."

The curling moms say a common denominator for success is a strong home support system. Husbands are the unsung heroes.

"My kids are older," says Sachtjen, from Lodi, Wis., the team's alternate. "My daughter (Sierra) is 16 and a big swimmer. She has practice every day, 35 minutes from our house. My son (Desmon, 9) is also a big swimmer.

"Juggling them, thank gosh my husband (Karl) has been so great. He's been the one doing all that (allowing me) to worry about my role on the team. When I'm not around, I'm feeling good that they're taken care of."

Pottinger feels the same way.

"The best part is I've got great support - a great husband and great family all the way around with my parents and in-laws," she says. "When we put the (training) schedule together in June it was like, 'OK, here are some weekends. Who wants to visit?' And they were all willing to ante up for their weekend."

Sachtjen, a five-time U.S. national champion, says technology has made things a bit easier.

"Skype, Facebook, being able to text on the phone, it's amazing," she says. "Years ago you didn't do that. Even though you talked on the phone, you still missed them."

Being away for weeks at a time, Sachtjen says she still feels she's sacrificing some family time she can't get back,

"They all grow up so much, so fast," she says. "All of a sudden you get home from a two-week trip and you say, 'wow, what a change (in appearance).' "

Other mom's competing for Team USA are four-time Olympic hockey player Jenny Potter (Madison, 9, Cullen 3), alpine skier Sarah Schleper (Lasse, 2) and skeleton hopeful Noelle Pikus-Pace (Lacee Lynne, 2).

The U.S. fell to Denmark 7-6 in an extra end to remain winless in four matches.

The American men have to win their remaining five round-robin matches to have any chance of reaching the semifinals.

American skip and final shooter John Shuster missed a chance to knock out a Danish stone when his last rock jammed on another one of his own and kept Denmark in scoring position.

"I've let my teammates and USA Curling down," Shuster said.

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