As if juggling work as a partner with a high-profile Edina law firm and family life isn’t time consuming enough, Rich Ruohonen battles to keep one more ball aloft (or stone on the sheet)—competitive curling. So far, Ruohonen’s making it all work.
Playing for Team McCormick, one of five men’s curling squads that competed in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for curling in Omaha in November, Ruohonen hoped that in his fourth—and likely, final—tournament appearance to capture the crown and advance to the world’s largest sporting stage.
It would have been the crowning achievement to a curling career beginning around 1981 when he was a mere fifth grader, following his father’s slip-guarded footsteps onto the icy indoor steppes at the St. Paul Curling Club.
Curling, as Ruohonen notes, barely registered as a sport of even local import when he took it up. Not until 1998 did the International Olympic Committee reinstate curling as a medal sport in the Winter Games. (The inaugural 1924 Winter Games included curling, but it lost its official stature in subsequent years).
By then Ruohonen was building a case for himself as a rising star in the Twin Cities legal community, while continuing to hone his curling skills. He ultimately made good at both pursuits, becoming a partner at the well-known TSR Injury Law firm in Edina (he’s the titular “R”) and winning the 2009 U.S. National Curling Championship.
Proclaimed a “fierce competitor” and “calculated risk-taker” by Team USA curling coach and Eveleth, Minnesota resident Phill Drobnick, Ruohonen possesses a fearsome reputation as a two-stone takeout artist. His penchant for knocking down two opponent stones at once—clearing the ice, so his teammates can more easily place their stones on the “button,” or bull’s eye, of the rink—earned him the nickname of Dr. Double.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Ruohonen put himself on a seven-days-a-week training regimen in anticipation of the Olympic Trials. “I’m in the best shape of my life,” he says. Lean and lanky, he looks fit as he takes the ice one afternoon to demonstrate the fine art of throwing a curling stone.
“A lot of people don’t realize how physically demanding the sport is,” he says. Curlers typically walk about two miles on the ice per game, he says. Sweepers ratchet up their pulses to about 140 to 160 heartbeats per minute when in action, making it one of the six most anaerobically demanding exercises in the world, he says. Controlling the curling stone—it weighs about 42 pounds—requires both ample upper body strength and a deft hand.
At age 46, Ruohonen ranks as the elder iceman on his current team. He knows his role on the team, as a “fifth man,” may be limited to that of an extra coaching voice and cheerleader.
Yet he’s happy beyond words to have had the chance to compete for a berth in the Winter Games. Although Team McCormick was ultimately beaten in the trials by Team Shuster, Ruohonen says, "Come what may, “I’ll do whatever I can to help [Team U.S.A.]” Visit teamusa.org to see the Olympic curling event schedule.