SOCHI, Russia — Curlers, bobsledders, biathletes: They toil in obscurity for most of their athletic existence. Once every four years, they step out of the shadows at the Winter Olympics and try to make the most of the precious little time they have in the sun.
It's all about seizing that one moment, about capturing the world's attention by any means necessary. As the Sochi Games enter their first full week of competition, the athletes are ramping up their efforts to capitalize on the exposure that so rarely comes their way.
The Norwegian curling team has taken to wearing extravagant, pajama-style pants in competition and in practice to try to intrigue the casual fan. American bobsledder Johnny Quinn, a native of McKinney, Texas, is re-enacting his now famous bathroom door busting for national news shows and Russian Alexey Sobolev has done everything from get a likeness of the controversial band Pussy Riot on his snowboard to scrawling his cellphone number on his helmet during competition.
As far as the World Curling Federation is concerned, Norway's little stunt is working. They debuted crazy fashion in Vancouver in 2010 and have ratcheted up the sartorial silliness in Sochi with rose-painted knickers and flannel caps.
Press officer Joanna Kelly says the Norwegians "have singlehandedly done a spectacular job of promoting curling, for which the World Curling Federation is immensely grateful because it brought publicity that no PR campaign could have brought."
Meanwhile on Monday in Sochi...
Canada makes stuttering start in men's curling
Maybe the men's Olympic curling tournament won't be such a procession for Canada, after all.
After becoming the first team in Canada's storied curling history to go through Olympic trials unbeaten, Brad Jacobs' rink was justifiably regarded as the overwhelming gold-medal favorite for the Sochi Games.
It's not turning out that way.
On a sobering opening day of action at the Ice Cube Curling Center, the Canadians only scraped past unheralded Germany 11-8 and followed that with a surprise 5-4 loss to Switzerland in the evening session.
"We didn't curl well at all and got what we deserved," Canada player Ryan Harnden said. "We're not sharp, not in a rhythm, not making our shots."
The Canadians' struggles have given renewed hope to their rivals — not least Sweden, which tops the standings with a 2-for-2 record.
"I'm a little bit surprised," Sweden player Fredrik Lindberg said. "But they have never been abroad to play a championship and that's something to consider. And they are expected to win and obviously it has to be a big pressure on them.
"If they get a tough start, maybe it starts getting to them."