15 questions with an alumna on the move
(expanded from the Fall 2013 edition of Badger Insider)
Erika Brown grew up in Madison and came to the UW on a golf scholarship. But her passion is curling: throwing stones and sweeping the ice. She hopes to win Olympic glory in Russia in 2014.
When did you start curling?
I started curling when I was a child here in Madison, about 7 or 8. My parents were both really avid curlers and members of the Madison Curling Club, and so I’ve always been a curler. They owned a curling supply business — it’s called Steve’s Curling Supplies, right in Madison. It’s owned by my brother now [and is] the largest distributor of curling supplies in the United States. Steve’s my dad. My brother is Craig Brown.
Where did you do your curling? Was that on one of the lakes?
No, it as all indoors. There’s no outdoor curling.
You were a collegiate golfer, but now you’re an Olympic-class curler. Do the two sports have anything in common?
Yeah, there are a lot of things that are really similar about the two sports. Both of them [require] being able to repeat a motion over and over and make adjustments based on a particular shot and fine-tuning it. And then, they both take a long time. They’re both slow, slow sports, with a lot of time to think. You have to manage your mental space during a round of golf or during a curling game, which can last about three hours.
Did you keep up with curling while you were on the golf team?
I did. The seasons work out perfectly, for the most part. There’s not a lot of golf you can do in Wisconsin in the winter. So it worked out pretty well, and my coach at Madison was Dennis Tiziani, and he was always a big supporter of my curling pursuits. What few conflicts there were he was happy to help me out with.
What are you proudest of from your time as a Badger?
As golf, obviously, is an individual sport, it was great to be able to be part of a team. It was a new experience for all of us, because normally your just out there fighting as an individual. To be part of a broader team and even the bigger team of the university of Wisconsin was a great opportunity. I got a chance to play with one of my great friends, Dana Tzakis ['95].
When did you start competing on a national or international level?
For curling? Well, in 1988 I went to the Olympics.
Was that Calgary?
Yeah, in Calgary. Curling was a demonstration sport. So I was in high school, and just prior to [the Calgary Olympics] I went to world junior championships, and that was my first women’s competition.
How’d you do?
We finished fifth.
Have you been at each Olympics since then?
No, I was there, and then I was in Nagano in 1998. And now my current team.
How often then do you get together and practice and compete?
Usually, during the curling season, we have tournaments every probably three out of four weekends, starting [in August]. So we’re together at least two if not three times a month through the trials. We’ll meet together and we’ll compete, and we’ll maybe get together once a month and practice. And individually, we’re all practicing on our own. Everyone’s schedule’s a little bit different, but I probably practice on my own about four times a week.
For how long?
When you’re on your own throwing stones, you can only throw so many. So probably an hour to an hour and a half.
Where’s home usually?
Oakland, Ontario, just outside of Toronto. I’ve lived there almost ten years now.
What do you do when you’re not curling?
I’m a physician assistant. And I work in family medicine in Hamilton, Ontario, where physician assistants are quite a new phenomenon. So I’m a physician assistant, and I’m a mother of two boys, [age] five and seven. The five year old is Cole, and the seven year old is Nathan. My husband is Ian Tetley — like the tea. He’s a three-time world champion curler. He’s not competing anymore. He’s just playing socially. But he’s a great, great player.
So the family curling tournaments must be pretty intense.
Yeah. They’re serious.
Do you beat him regularly, or does he beat you?
We’re fairly even. We do play a lot of one-on-one, just for practice. That’s a big challenge.