Anna Sidorova, Russia, Curling. (Photo courtesy of Twitter and Getty Images)
SOCHI, Russia – Anna Sidorova has been voted Russia's most attractive Winter Olympian, but she wants to be known for her curling, not her curves.
Sidorova is skipper of the Russian women’s curling team, which has rapidly grabbed the attention of the Olympic audience by matching good looks with world-class ability.
On Tuesday morning, Sidorova and her colleagues continued to be must-see viewing for the home fans as Russia defeated the United States 9-7 in front of a cheering, chanting and vibrant home crowd at the Ice Cube Curling Center.
Organizers made the Ice Cube big enough for a crowd of only 3,000, but interest in curling has spiked here ever since the Russian women's team did a racy photo shoot just before the Games that landed in several magazines and was widely reported on television news.
The campaign was drawn up by a savvy marketing person and Sidorova and her teammates went along with it, understanding the need to capitalize on this brief window of opportunity to promote their sport. Now, though, Sidorova seems a little irked by the newfound national attention about their looks.
"It is pleasant to hear that people know us and like us, for sure," Sidorova said. "[But] it is much more pleasant when they will like our game and when they appreciate what we are doing. First of all, we are professional [athletes] and then we're pretty girls or [whatever] you want."
Curling has plenty of attractive women but isn't exactly known for producing model types such as Sidorova, whose photo shoot included pictures of her in sheer black lingerie. Teammate Ekaterina Galkina also posed for Russia's version of Maxim magazine and won an army of male admirers for the curling-themed pictorial.
Years ago, Sidorova wanted to be like Julia Lipnitskaia, with dreams of jumping, spinning and twisting across Winter Games ice as a figure skating star. In Russia at least, she might be on the verge of joining the 15-year-old as the most popular Olympian. According to Sports Illustrated, Sidorova was recently voted best-looking Olympian in a Russian poll.
"I started figure skating when I was six and it was seven years for me as a professional, but I hurt my leg and had to change the kind of sport," Sidorova said. "Nobody knew how to help me. I tried a lot of things and they were just saying I needed an operation and there was no guarantee it would all work out. So I started curling.
"I still adore figure skating and I am just in love with [Lipnitskaia]. She is really a hero for Russia. She did a great job and she is absolutely ideal. Hopefully, she will win the individual medal."
While Lipnitskaia received a raucous and jubilant reception following her two standout performances in team figure skating, Sidorova and the curling squad are also getting the locals excited, even if some fans need tips on when and when not to cheer.
"They are learning when to yell and getting used to the sport," U.S. women's team coach Bill Todhunter said. “At first they were distracting the players, but this place is lively, it's hopping. Whatever the reason why people are watching, it is great."