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Eric Peterson, Published November 13 2013

Better late than never in curling for Bismarck's Sambor

Fargo - Stephanie Sambor was a three-sport athlete for most of her prep career at Bismarck High School. Curling wasn’t one of her sports.

Even though her father was an avid curler, Sambor didn’t get into the sport until her senior year in high school.

“I actually fell in love with it right away,” said Sambor, who graduated from high school in 2003. “I thought it was fantastic. … But at that time, I wasn’t sure I wanted to pursue sports in college.”

Sambor stuck with curling and now she’s among the top women’s curlers in the United States. Sambor, 29, plays for Cassie Potter’s team, which was one of the four women’s teams competing at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling at Scheels Arena. The women’s winner will represent the U.S. at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Double round-robin play concludes today with the men’s and women’s best-of-3 finals starting at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

“It’s just a thrill to watch them play,” Ken Sambor said of his daughter’s team.

Ken, who has curled for close to 40 years, wanted his daughter to get into curling at an earlier age, but also knew she was busy with her other sports. She played volleyball, basketball and soccer for the Demons.

And it wasn’t like Stephanie didn’t have exposure to curling at an early age.

“Even when she was a little tot, I would put here on the stone and slide her down the ice and stuff,” Ken said with a smile. “She knew about the game, but she was a three-sport athlete in high school. Curling just isn’t that high profile.”

In her final year at Bismarck High, a local high school curling team asked Stephanie to play with them because they needed an extra player. Stephanie said she practiced with her dad every day for a month to get ready for that first competition. Stephanie’s team didn’t win a game, but she was hooked. Still, at that time, she wasn’t sure she was going to continue to curl as she headed to college at the University of North Dakota. She wanted to get her doctorate in physical therapy in six years.

“I wanted to kind of shift my focus away from sports,” Stephanie said.

In her freshman year at UND, she was again asked by a Bismarck team to fill in for a tournament. That was expected to be a one-tournament deal. Stephanie ended up playing junior state with that team. That helped spark a successful career.

A few years into being a competitive curler, Stephanie played for a team that won the 2005 U.S. junior national championship. This is her first Olympic Team Trials.

“I never saw my life as having Olympic potential, especially in the sport of curling,” said Stephanie, who now lives in St. Paul. “The funny thing is my dad, ever since I can remember, has been telling me that this is the route I need to go. … I just didn’t show much interest until a little bit later in life.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com