Margaretha “Maggan” Sigfridsson, from Sundsvall, is the Swedish Women’s Curling Team Skipper (Captain)
By Susan Holmberg
First of all, congratulations on winning the European Championship held in Norway. The Scottish team seemed to be shocked. Were they?
Maybe the people of Scotland were shocked because we did so well during the round robin games, but we did exactly the same think in Moscow two years ago – we won every single game going into the final. You can’t take anything for granted – every game is a separate one despite all the previous results.
Where have you travelled in your competitions?
Many European countries of course, often where there are many curlers and where the good ”bonspeils” (tournaments) are, so Switzerland, Norway, Scotland. Every other year the world championship is in Canada, so we have made some trips there. During the early days we didn’t travel there so much because it was a bit expensive but when we got the means for it we try to go there as often as possible because that’s where the best competitions are.
Why is Canada so good?
There are so many people that play there, they have a long history of curling.
Your team didn’t compete in the Vancouver Olympics – how does it work that you are the team going to Sochi?
The team is picked by the national coach. First you need to be part of the Olympic committee elite program and then the national coach nominates the team and the committee approves it. Since the last olympics, the winner of that team formed another team, and then we won a silver medal at the European championship and were selected into the Olympic committee program. Since then we have competed against each other to be the best Swedish team and national coach selected the team he thought would be the best for the Olympics.
Your team plays for Skellefteå but the four team members don’t live there. How does the system work?
Our team plays for a curling ring in Skellefteå. It’s not like in Canada where you have to live where you play, where you have provincial competitions, etc. In Sweden that’s not the case. Skellefteå owns our spot in the super league. We were one team from Sveg and one team from Skellefteå and we put those teams together because they didn’t have enough players and we continued to play for Skellefteå. Now we are three of us live in Sundsvall and one lives in Härnösand. It’s an advantage to live close to each other so we can practice together.
Is this your full time job?
Only during this season. Last season was our first in the Olympic program so we have a small scholarship that allows us to work 50% and do curling the rest of the time. When you play at this level there are so many competitions, the championships are a week or two long and we are away so it’s hard to be able to both work and do curling. It’s been great this season because we can put more time into ice practice and physical training as well as tactical discussions and the pshychology of curling - so that has been really good.
Are there any full time curlers in the world?
China and Russia have some. That’s because they want medals in the winter sports and so they are putting a lot of money for that.
How did you get into the sport?
When I was in 7th grade, in Sveg, we had a really great English teacher (a Swede) who took us to the curling rink there, and almost all the class continued to do curling for many years. Three of the 8 teams in the super league were from Sveg, so we had a really strong tradition there. Also, after a few years it was obvious that this was a sport where you could advance quite quickly and had a good chance to represent Sweden in the juniors (which I did in 1997). I also played basketball, but the court was 100 kilometers away… it’s easier with curling, there are just four players.
What do you like about curling as a sport?
It’s really challenging for your brain. So much is based on tactics, reading the ice and the path of the stones. Also there is an instinctiveness about it and you need to be precise and have a feeling for the stones and the ice.
What is the psychological dimension that you mentioned?
When you have the confidence and the winning feeling it’s such a great game. When you get the winning feeling and play very confidently you can win against any team.
It seems curling is more gender neutral than a lot of other sports. Is this true?
Men have an advantage in being able to throw harder. Also they have more stability in their upper body, but the biggest difference in the level of play is because there are so many more male curlers than women so they get better in the top place. But it is kind of close. In some competitions in Switzerland they let both women and men play in the same competition. They also do this in some competitions in Sweden. It’s good for women because there aren’t many tournaments for women. I remember watching curling on Canadian television and it seemed particularly engaging, really drawing in the viewer to the players.
Do you think tv is particularly good for watching curling?
Yes, I think it’s an excellent game for watching on television. I prefer to do that myself because I can get a good view of and focus on just one sheet (of ice) rather than all four sheets. Also, the Canadian commentaries are really really great – I think the Swedish ones are good, too, but the Canadian level of tactical knowledge is so much greater.
What are your expectations in Sochi?
This is my first Olympics, but another team member played in Salt Lake City in 2002. It will be like nothing we have experienced before because the competition is similar to the ones we play, so we I think we have to focus on our competition and try to get energy from the other Swedish athletes and their hopefully good results, but I think we need to be quite humble to the fact that it will be a very big event and we have to try and focus on our competition. We will be there a few days before the start, so we will get to see the opening and closing ceremonies, and that’s really exciting!
How do you think the Swedes will do at the Olympics?
I’m hoping for many medals! We should be able to take some medals in cross country skiing, also some trick events like ski jumping and free ski, and of course the men’s hockey. In the Olympics, people who normally don’t stand a chance can rise and do really well.
Do you have any concerns about the political controversies surrounding Sochi?
I am concerned in a general way, but not for this event. We will go there and do our sport and be part of a sports community where you don’t need to discuss politics or religion or other stuff. I think sports is a great chance to meet on the same ground and that’s what we will try to do. We are there to compete and not to have opinions on whether Russia has humane politics.