Sioux Falls woman is USA Curling superfan and “ambassador”

Published: Feb. 8, 2022 at 7:38 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Breanna Sooter has played the sport of curling once in her life. Outside of being a long-time Sioux Falls Canaries season ticket holder, she’s not much of a sports fan.

And yet, she’s all swept up in Team USA curling, whose 2022 Olympics bid starts Wednesday at 6 a.m.

“I’ll have my stuff laid out, go to bed early tonight so I can wake up and watch the game,” said Sooter, a lifelong Sioux Falls resident. “I feel like I have to watch the games live, because I’m a crazy person. But I love them. I want to support them.”

She’s taken love and support to another level — tweeting about the team constantly, befriending the players, and ascending to the statuses of “superfan” and “ambassador,” according to Tyler George, a member of that 2018 team who is now retired and serving as NBC’s curling commentator throughout these Olympics.

“Anybody that puts that kind of effort to promote something, especially something that’s not all that mainstream, then you just kind of become an ambassador,” George said.

So, how did someone in South Dakota who doesn’t play the sport and has no family ties to team members become this devoted?

Sooter became intrigued by curling when she was 8, when it became an Olympic sport and she started playing the Nintendo 64 curling game.

“We all see curling and it looks easy, like we could all do that,” Sooter said, “but I’ve tried it, and it’s harder than it looks. I like the strategy part of it.”

Her intrigue became an obsession when the Americans won their first Olympic gold medal in 2018.

“I told myself I’d learn how it worked and learn about the game, so really, I started teaching myself about everything, looking it up, following all the games, and fell in love with Team Schuster.”

That would be the team captained by John Shuster, and joined by Tyler George and Matt Hamilton, which represented USA at those Olympics. Shuster was the American flag-bearer at this year’s opening ceremonies.

“You’ve seen memes go around that say they look like they’re dads who just, like, left their families to go and win a gold medal at the Olympics. They’re just like normal people, and I think there’s something heartwarming and enduring about them.”

Sooter began interacting with the curlers on social media, re-circulating their tweets about upcoming matches, and expressing her excitement.

“She knows how to engage people, and when somebody really cares about something, then it comes across, and her fandom for the sport is very genuine,” said George. “We generally don’t create friendships that are that open that often, because it can be a slippery slope with fans that are reaching out to you, but you kind of trust your own judgment on the people that you can trust as friends and people that you want to help promote the game.

“I think we’re right on her.”

Ten months after the ‘18 Olympics, Sooter and a friend decided to drive to Omaha for the Curling World Cup. The friend, a graphic designer, made different shirts with curling puns for different days, like “Curling Rocks, Don’t Take it for Granite,” and “Sweep Me Off My Feet.” They posted pictures of the shirts on Twitter and Instagram.

The players took notice. Every day at that event, the players, on Twitter, would comment on the shirts and ask “which one are you wearing today?”

Sooter and her friend sat in the front row, then made it down to the floor after the matches to meet their idols, who had already become friends over social media.

“Sometimes people think, oh, they’re famous. I couldn’t approach them, but they’re all super nice, kind humble men,” Sooter said.

While curling’s popularity exploded after the 2018 gold medal, George said there still aren’t too many fans with the passion Sooter shows.

“Having connections with these fans that become friends, it’s very indicative of the curling world,” George said. “It’s easy for things to happen. It’s one big community.”

And how does Breanna’s husband Chris feel about these connections?

“He knows my personality,” Sooter said with a laugh. “I’ll go all-in when I like things. Curling has obviously been a huge thing for me these last four years.”

She’s even gotten Chris into it a little bit. Just not to the point he’ll be waking up at 6 a.m. for their first match, or staying up well past midnight for another one.

As for Breanna’s anticipation of the Olympic fortnight?

“I get pretty excited,” Sooter said with a laugh. “I think I’ll be really nervous. My heart’s beating faster, just thinking about it. Man, if they make it to the gold medal match, that’s going to be crazy. Just thinking about it, I’m going to be screaming.”

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