Colourful Norwegians go drab for Cup

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:41 AM ET

Their pants are off!

Olympic silver medal-winner Thomas Ulsrud and teammates will not be wearing their loud jester-style pants when TSN begins 30 hours of live TV coverage of the Continental Cup Thursday.

There will be no Vancouver Olympic replay.

“This week we’ll be playing under cover,” said Ulsrud.

The team wanted to return to Canada where the wild pants, in Norwegian red, white and blue, made their diamond-designed debut at the Olympics.

“We asked them if that’s OK?” Ulsrud said of being able to wear the pants here, where they trained for a week prior to the Olympics.

Organizers said no way.

“We’re back in black!” said Ulsrud of the World Team uniforms at the event, which begins this morning at the Servus Centre in St. Albert.

“This week we’re going to be out there on our own. We don’t have our pants.”

Actually, they’ll always have their pants.

“The teams is called ‘The Pants’ in Norway now. When they write about them in the papers they simply refer to them as The Pants,” said Norway’s 2002 Olympic gold medal-winner Pal Trulsen.

“In Norway the people are very into sports, especially on an Olympic year. When it comes to curling in Norway, the Olympics should be every year.

“It was great for me winning gold in Salt Lake but it was something for this team winning silver, too. Especially because of those pants,” said Trulsen, who was wearing a set of them himself as a coach in Vancouver.

“Everybody asks them about the pants, everywhere they go. Sometimes I think they are more recognized for their pants than for their curling. It’s not all easy, huh?”

Ulsrud says the guy who owns the pants plant did OK by the team, which lost the gold medal game to Edmonton’s Kevin Martin, the same guy Trulsen beat to win in ‘02.

“We didn’t make big money but I think he tripled his business. It’s funny what it can do when 80 million people are watching the Olympics on TV.”

Soccer players often trade shirts after games, but nobody asked anybody on the team to trade pants.

“If a women’s team came up to me and asks me to trade pants I will do it,” he joked.

And speaking of women ... Ulsrud, the world noticed, has movie-star looks.

Trulsen’s ruddy, tussled look is a little closer to that of a Norwegian troll in comparison.

“People love him,” said Ulsrud of the old skip, who is the World team captain in this Ryder Cup-style event.

“People kind of think of him as a guy smoking.” Ulsrud is more a guy in a smoking jacket.

“We had a big following on Facebook. About 550,000,” he said, allowing that most of them were girls.

“Ah, if it had only happened 10 years earlier. We had to tell them we’re taken. Too late. Too late.

“It has all been a great experience for everybody. For our first two weeks back in Norway after the Olympics, it was pretty intense with all the appearances. We even went to the castle to have a glass of champagne with the King.”

King Harald, of course, had shown up to watch them and even have coffee with them in their dressing room.

“We’re old buddies,” Ulsrud laughed. “He has the pants. We presented him with a pair of the pants.”

Ullsrud said it was strange coming home as the toast of Norway as silver medal winners, when the nation had gold medal winners to celebrate.

“At the end of the year clips they show on TV, there were more for us than for any of the gold medal winners.

“There was just so much TV. The sport needs to be on TV.”

You know, of course, that the seven million Canadians who watched Kevin Martin and Cheryl Bernard in their gold medal games, produced the largest non-hockey domestic TV numbers at the Vancouver Olympics.

But consider the number of people who watched Bingyu Wang win a bronze medal for China. Wang and her team spent the previous four years using the Edmonton area as a training base.

“We finished in first place on the TV,” she said of the number of people in China’s gargantuan population, who watched curling more than any other sport from the Winter Olympics.

“They showed every game. That’s a lot of curling. I think that is why. They know the curlers. They watched the curling. When I walk down the streets of Beijing they recognize me. Not just me. They know us all. They know our names. They know our positions.

“I think back 10 years. Nobody in China even knew the word curling. I can’t believe that now curling is popular.”

Just beats the, er, pants off anything she ever dreamed, too.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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