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The latest nude calendar: curling

In the surest sign yet that curling has reached the big time, the stone-and-broom game has joined other Olympic endeavors with a nude calendar.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2006 18:12 IST

In the surest sign yet that curling has reached the big time, the stone-and-broom game has joined other Olympic endeavors with a nude calendar.

"It's about time," said Paal Trulsen, the skip of the Norwegian men's team. "It's a fun thing, but we want curling to be just like other sports. We had the doping thing, now we have the calendar."

The Ana Arce Team Sponsorship Calendar is being peddled during the Turin Olympics as curling makes its quadrennial appearance in the spotlight. The black-and white-pictures feature female curlers from Italy, Denmark, Spain, Britain, Poland, Germany, Austria and Canada, with a brief description of their athletic and sometimes academic achievements.

"Who better to represent the month of March, when many curlers are thinking of Taarnby, than Camilla Jensen?" the calendar asks - a rhetorical question if there ever was one.

"If you have curled in charming Kitzbuehel" - and who hasn't? - "you probably know the equally charming Toth sisters!" says the April caption under the photo of Austrian champion Claudia Toth.

Since the models are distinctly without their uniforms, the only sign of a curling connection is the stone used as a prop in the cover photo of Ana Toth, the Austrian skip who used to date U.S. skier Bode Miller. The months are numbered 1-12, in Roman numerals, to make the calendar useful for curling buffs - er, fans - around the world who don't want to bother with translations.

September's model is Lynsay Ryan, a Canadian provincial champion and the daughter of Olympic gold medalist Penny Schantz-Henderson and world champion Pat Ryan. Arce, whose picture graces May, has represented Andorra and Spain at four European Championships.

The money from the calendar goes to the national programs in the participants' countries.

"This is a tasteful, artistic product that will help the athletes raise much needed funds for training and competition," Arce said. "This proves that curlers are athletes. Strong but graceful, and of course very beautiful."

Breaking the mold

Skeleton racer Anja Huber is used to being different.

The 22-year-old German calls herself "the only skeleton girl in Bavaria."

Luge is far more popular than skeleton in Germany's Bavaria region - home to five-time Olympic luge medalist and three-time champion Georg Hackl.

Added to that, Huber was the only one to crash in skeleton training Wednesday on the ultra-fast Cesana track.

"I had six training runs and that's not enough for a fast race," she said. "I was the only skeleton girl who crashed here yesterday in training. It hurts, it's not much fun."

Huber luged for 12 years before switching to skeleton two years ago.

"I was a luger before so I know all the crash situations," she said.

She was unharmed after her spill, and placed eighth in Thursday's medal race - won by Maya Pedersen of Switzerland.

Trading places

Japanese skeleton racer Eiko Nakayama has seen two sides of the Olympics - as a reporter and an athlete.

At the 1998 Nagano Games, she was a reporter on a local newspaper covering bobsled and luge events. Eight years later, she placed 14th in the women's skeleton medal event.

"I was very scared on the top part of the track," Nakayama said. "My result was not good for me. So I don't know if I'll continue or not. I must be better."

If her skeleton career doesn't work out, she could be at a loss.

Don't count on her reporting again.

"The Japanese media is no good," Nakayama said. "They only get excited about Olympics but not the rest."

Aussies don't know skeleton

Australian skeleton racer Michelle Steele doesn't expect to make many waves back home - where cricket and rugby are the national sports.

"Half the people in my country have never even heard of this sport before," Steele said after placing 13th Thursday.

She is unsure what reception she'll get back home in Queensland.

"I don't know. I haven't even been home for the last six months," she said. "I've been training overseas."

Steele is more used to the beach life than life on the ice.

"I was doing surf lifesaving back home, which is beach sprinting, board and surfing," she said. "It helps for skeleton, because when you are running in the sand you have to be very powerful."

Longer road to Turin

Rachel Steer still can't shake the feeling that if she were a man, her road to the Turin Olympics would have been a lot easier.

The Olympic prequalification criteria that U.S. Biathlon formulated was harder for the women - too hard, as it turns out.

America's top woman biathlete, Steer had five top-20 World Cup finishes last year, and her world ranking of 36th would have prequalifed her for the Olympics - if she were a man.

Women, however, had to be in the top 35 overall or finish in the top-10 two times at World Cup events to avoid having to compete in the Olympic trials in Maine last month.

Men needed only to be in the top 40 overall or have two top-15 finishes, and America's top male, Jay Hakkinen, easily met the criteria and got to skip the trials and train in Europe.

U.S. Biathlon, which had crunched the results from past World Cup competitions and determined that a top-10 finish for the women was tantamount to a top-15 finish for the men, later acknowledged the standards were unfair - and joined Steer in unsuccessfully lobbying the U.S. Olympic Committee for an exception.

So the 27-year-old Steer, who plans to retire after this season to finish her journalism degree in Alaska, had to pick up her own tab for flying to the trials at a cost of more than $3,000.

First Published: Feb 18, 2006 17:18 IST