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Baird, the oldest Winter Olympian ever, opens up

Posted: Saturday February 25, 2006 11:48PM; Updated: Monday February 27, 2006 12:07PM
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Scott Baird
When American bronze medalist Scott Baird isn't curling, he's selling insurance in Bemidji, Minn.

Last week Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch interviewed U.S. Olympic curler Scott Baird for the magazine's Q&A. The 54-year-old curler from Bemidji, Minn., is the oldest athlete ever to compete in the Winter Games. On Friday the U.S. men's curling team beat Britain 8-6 to win the bronze medal, the first curling medal for the United States in an Olympic Games. Here are excerpts from their conversation:

SI: Have you come across any other athletes in Turin who also have white hair?
Baird: All the coaches do. But I did see a couple of athletes, so I'm not alone (laughs).

SI: When did you learn you were the oldest Winter Olympian ever?
Baird: I knew that I was the oldest member of the U.S. team a couple of days before I came to Italy. But I didn't learn I was the oldest Winter Olympian ever until the Sunday right before our first press conference. I was stunned. I'm thinking, Wow, I wonder how big a media event this is going to be? It turned out to be a pretty big one.

SI: You and your wife, Lynn, play in a mixed Monday-night curling league in Bemidji. What do the winners get?
Baird: Sometimes we get a little trophy at the end of the year. Or a $10 or $15 gift certificate for a night out.

SI: The oldest Olympic competitor ever was Sweden's Oscar Swahn, who was 72 when he competed in the team shooting competition at the 1920 Games. Oscar's going down, right?
Baird: Absolutely not. I'm not even planning to shoot for 2010. But if I can be an inspiration to any sports enthusiast, especially to curlers or future curlers, I'm happy. If you still have passion for your sport and you are still in pretty good physical condition, you gotta go for it. You have to try to live your dreams.

SI: What would be a good insult to throw a curler off his or her game?
Baird: Well, if a person just missed a shot, you could say, "Gee, were you throwing the in turn or the out turn on that shot?" You could really jab them with that one!

SI: I have one night to spend in Bemidji, Minn. What should I do?
Baird: It really depends on the season. We have four great seasons up there in northern Minnesota. But if it's wintertime, an evening could obviously be spent at the curling club or at the fish house out on Lake Bemidji catching some walleyes. There's also always eating out at Dave Pizza's, which is owned by [U.S. team curling captain] Pete Fenson.

SI: How would Monday Night Curling do on ESPN?
Baird: You know, with the right announcers, it might be pretty exciting. I don't know if you can show a whole 2˝ hours and keep everybody interested, but you could do a scaled-down version and keep the country's interest for awhile.

SI: You and snowboarder Shaun White switch sports for a day. Who would be more successful?
Baird: Shaun White in curling. I could be in serious trouble in the halfpipe.

SI: How effective are those brooms away from the ice?
Baird: Away from the ice, they are not too effective (laughs). Use them strictly on the ice.