CEDAR RAPIDS — For one weekend, the CedarSpiel at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena was a place for traveling curlers to cool their heels.
Cedar Rapids Curling Club president Lon Peper said teams came in “from as far away as Pittsburg, Denver, North Dakota, we’ve got a St. Louis team, we’ve got 5 or 6 from Chicago.”
4-time Olympic world champion Debbie McCormick was among them, and seeing so many curlers from so many states put a smile on her face.
“There’s curling clubs in Texas, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, all over the place now. Almost every state curls,” McCormick said. “It’s just really exciting to see the sport grow so fast.”
McCormick and Peper said the surge in popularity of this icy game has a lot to do with Winter Olympic exposure, but the fun of curling is enough to pull in players like Pete Morelewicz a thousand miles from his home in Washington, D.C.
“This is a great atmosphere,” Morelewicz said. “I’ve never been to Iowa before, which is part of the reason I signed up for this. Cedar Rapids is a great town, everyone’s super nice, the facility’s great.”
Even with decades of experience, McCormick admits her team met their match here.
“We lost our game, yeah. There’s some tough competition here. It’s not always that you walk on the ice and you’re going to win, so you have to play well,” McCormick told us.
Still, Peper said it’s nice to have McCormick in Cedar Rapids as an ambassador for a growing sport.
“Just watching her, you can watch her form and say, ‘that’s how you’re supposed to do it.’”
Participants got a chance to meet McCormick and 2-time Paralympian curler, Patrick McDonald, at an open house following the tournament.