Norway's crazy pants gang dressed to thrill and aiming to top the bill

  • Norway's Thomas Ulsrud Photo © WCF / Richard Gray

Thomas Ulsrud (NOR) is a an Olympic Winter Games silver medallist and world champion in men's team curling, but outside the curling fraternity, the 46-year-old is perhaps best known for his flamboyant pants.

The colourful trousers that have become part of 'Team Ulsrud' have developed such notoriety at the Olympic Winter Games, they have their own Facebook fan page and also feature in a 2018 charity calendar.

According to Ulsrud, the colourful pants came about through pure chance.

"Curling is a traditional sport," he said. "Almost like golf used to be.

"Almost every player competes in black pants, so before the Vancouver Olympics, we thought we'd mix it up and try to get some Norwegian colours like blue or red in.

"But then Chris (Svae, NOR) came up with this crazy pattern, which was probably the best move we ever made. But it was pure coincidence."

The team had no idea the pants would become a sensation. "Exactly eight years ago I was standing in the mixed zone after first practice with these pants on for the first time, and I ended up talking to journalists for about two hours," Ulsrud said.

"I left thinking, 'I think we've got something here now. We've got their attention so we'd better perform'."

While Ulsrud and his team went on to take silver in Vancouver, back home they are still largely recognised for their fashion, rather than their sporting prowess.

"Back in Norway, if I walk on the street in regular blue jeans nobody recognises me," he said. "But as soon as I put these (pants) on, everyone points and goes, 'Ah, curling guys'.

"Sometimes, the four of us, we go out for a couple of drinks in the off-season and if we put on the pants, and a sporting coat to match it, we get some attention from the public. It's a bit like Superman. If you see me in a phone booth changing, you know what's going down."

Team Ulsrud and their pants almost did not make it to the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, having considered retirement after Sochi 2014.

"Sochi was a big disappointment for us, we felt really good coming in and it just wasn't our week," he said. "It's tough for the guys, because one of my teammates, (Torger Nergaard, NOR) has two small kids, and he hasn't had a summer vacation in seven years.

"That's not a good family situation. But three or four weeks after Sochi we won the world championships - pretty much beating all the same teams - and then we looked at each other and said, 'We've still got it, we can win, so let's go for it'."

An Olympic Winter Games gold medal is the only curling achievement missing in Ulsrud's resume and he admits it has become something of an obsession.

"Winning gold is probably the only thing that's going to stop me repeatedly coming back," he said. "If you ask my wife, she'll tell you that I'm really addicted to curling. If I'm not playing at the weekend, I'll be sitting at home and watching games on the computer, no matter who's playing.

"I love just seeing how the teams approach solving different problems, different tactics. In my head I figure out how each team likes to play and what I should do to make it difficult for them."

He admitted it becomes harder each time. "It's getting tougher and tougher to beat all these young guys, and I keep getting older. So this is a bad situation. I'd better make it right this time."

Whatever their exploits on the ice, Ulsrud promises they will leave the fans with some pants to remember.

"Chris has something planned, which even I don't know," he said. "Apparently we have a new pair for every game. Chris has spent a lot of time on this, planning it all out. I just hope he's on top of his game as well as the trousers."

article provided by the Olympic Information Service