Despite White House speculation over Games’ status, local Olympians not worried about Korea tension

Despite White House speculation over Games’ status, local Olympians not worried about Korea tension
Olympic curlers Becca Hamilton, Matt Hamilton, and Nina Roth

Three Olympic curlers from South Central Wisconsin said Thursday they’re not concerned over tensions on the Korean Peninsula after White House officials speculated whether American athletes would attend the Olympic Games.

The 2018 Winter Olympics is slated to be held Feb. 9-25 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Curlers Matt Hamilton, Becca Hamilton and Nina Roth, all McFarland natives, said they’ve been asked about the tensions a lot.

“People ask if we feel safe going over there or what we think about Kim Jong Un firing missiles every month or so,” Matt Hamilton said.

In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, when asked if it’s a “done deal” that US athletes will be able to attend the Olympics, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said: “There’s an open question. I have not heard anything about that, but I do know in the talks that we have — whether it’s Jerusalem or North Korea — it’s about, how do we protect the US citizens in the area?”

This interview, plus a statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, stating that there had been “no official decision” made on whether American athletes would attend the Winter Games, fueled confusion.

The Hamiltons, who are siblings, and Roth are currently training in Minnesota. In a Skype interview with News 3, they said they’re not worried at all about safety.

“We know that the U.S. is taking every precaution to ensure athletes are safe and if there was a true concern that we would pull out of the Olympics, we wouldn’t put our lives in jeopardy,” Matt Hamilton said.

“We’re not worried,” Becca Hamilton said. “We know that the U.S. is going to take all the measures to keep us safe over there and we’re going to do our job and go over there and do what we were meant to do.”

The three athletes said, right now, they’re focused on going for gold. Matt Hamilton said he’s looking forward to participating on the biggest stage of them all.

“It’s just a great opportunity and a huge stage to showcase everything you’ve worked for,” he said.

Roth and Becca Hamilton said, in particular, they want to win America’s first medal ever for women’s curling. They called Canada their biggest rival.

“Looking back at our fifth-place finish from the World Championships, we’re only a few ends and a few situations and made shots away from being on the podium there,” Roth said. “I think we’re going to treat this like we treated the Worlds in Beijing last year, and just try to capitalize on a few more shots and we’ll be on the podium.”

On Thursday, Sanders walked back White House speculation about American athletes, tweeting “(t)he U.S. looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea. The protection of Americans is our top priority and we are engaged with the South Koreans and other partner nations to secure the venues.”