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OLYMPIC FLASHBACK: WHERE ARE THEY NOW? //


curling was going to be on hold “until I was done curling.” (Sounds like she had her priorities straight!) Upon moving to Illinois, she decided to take the Chicago Police exam


to become a police officer. No sooner had she taken the exam when their first child was on the way, putting those plans on hold. Not to be denied, Stacey subsequently trained at the Cook County Sheriff’s Depart- ment Training Academy, graduated, and served as a deputy for five years. Currently, she is an investigator with the Cook County Sheriff’s De- partment in Chicago. She says the job is “excit- ing and entertaining and always different every day. You never know what you’re going to get.” Today, Stacey (Liapis) Fuchsgruber, 42, and


AND I was able to go with my sister.” Kari adds that for her, “Te Olympics was really an ultimate dream come


true.” Both women are quick to credit their family for their support in their curling careers and ultimately their Olympic experiences. Teir mom, Su- zanne, got them started in curling early on. Teir dad, Mike, coached them along the way (including at that 2002 Olympics.). Tat 2002 team also in- cluded Debbie McCormick (who would win the only U.S. world women’s championship title to date the next year and also compete in the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Games as well as the previous Games in 1998), Ann Swis- shelm (who won that world title with McCormick in 2003 and also com- peted in 2014 in Sochi at the Games) and alternate Joni Cotten. But the family inspiration didn’t stop with their parents. Kari relates that


at the 2002 Olympics, the number of family members – husbands, aunts, uncles, cousins – who were able to attend the U.S.-based competition made the Games all that more special. “We had family, and extended family, attend,” says Stacey. “Between Kari


and I we probably had 30 people there. In Nagano it was just a few family members who could make that trip,” she added. Kari says of the support, “It’s wonderful to go to foreign countries to


compete, but there usually is little or no fan base for the U.S. teams. In Salt Lake, it was great to have the family members offer their encouragement. Tere were even classrooms of kids brought in from the local area who were really excited and were great fans.” Kari mentioned that, coming to a full realization that they were final-


ly at the Olympics, the Opening Ceremony was almost surreal for her as they walked in last with the crowd cheering. She also felt that being in the Olympic Village was really an eye-opener. “Te Olympic Village had a very homey feeling among the U.S. athletes and the athletes of other countries. You would run into athletes from all these different sports, from countries around the world, right there in the cafeteria. It was mind-boggling.” Te opening ceremony was particularly meaningful for Stacey at the


2002 Games when she was chosen to be one of seven athletes to carry a flag from the World Trade Center, honoring the memory of those lost in the Sept. 11 attack the year before. In talking to both women, you get the feeling the Olympic experience


hasn’t really faded. But, in a good and family way, life moves on. Stacy (Liapis) Fuchsgruber


Aſter the 2002 Olympics, Stacey married and has gone on to a career in


law enforcement. Still living in her hometown of Bemidji, Minn., she ini- tially wanted to be a Minnesota State Trooper. But, she says, her career aſter


her husband, Tomas, a lieutenant with the Chicago Fire Dept., reside happily with their daughters, Samantha and Makayla, as well as three dogs, in Chicago. Stacey laments that, unfortunately, the local curling club is too far away


right now to do much curling. Does she ever miss the competition? “Well,” Stacey whispers, “there’s always a chance of seniors one day I suppose.” Kari (Liapis) Erickson


Following the Salt Lake Olympics, Kari, 44, pursued a bachelor’s degree


in geology and a master’s degree in special education. She is now in her 11th year teaching seventh grade at Bemidji Middle School. She also coaches the middle school’s girls swim team and advises on the school’s yearbook. Married to Darren, a cabinetmaker, they have two children, Zachary


and Walker. Tey live in Bemidji (where Kari and Stacey laid out their early curling careers at Bemidji Curling Club.) Kari is curling recreationally these days and has gotten her husband


and oldest son out on the ice. Zach is an up and coming curler of his own, having already participated in two U18 championships and a junior na- tionals championship. Before concluding our conversation,


being the close-knit family that they are, Kari and Stacey both readily offered a huge shout-out to their brother, Bob, 39. Bob was a junior champion curler himself in his younger days. He now works at the regional airport for Bemidji Aviation. “He was al- ways there and supportive for us. He sort of got overshadowed by what we were doing at times and never seemed to mind,” says Stacey. “Well, there was one time when he seemed to mind a little,” remembers


Kari. She added that one day, in the middle of all the Olympics frenzy, Bob was seen wearing a T-shirt that said “I’m the OTHER Liapis.” When you’re a Liapis, it appears, it’s all about family. Q


Captions: Te Liapis sisters (opposite, top) were coached by father, Mike, at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. Sisters Stacey (in hat,


opposite, bottom) and Kari realized a dream while competing at the Olympics together. Stacey helped carry an American flag from the World Trade Center


(top, leſt) during the 2002 Olympic Opening Ceremony. Stacey (top, right) is now an investigator with the Cook County Sheriff's Department in Chicago. Kari (bottom) is a middle school teacher and swim coach in Bemidji. Submitted photos


USA Curling (( 13


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