Norway's curlers funkier than ever in Sochi

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SOCHI, Russia (AP)

Flat cap. Soccer socks. Knickers.

Just another outfit for Norway's funky men's curling team.

The Norwegians shot to global fame during the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 by donning bold, diamond-printed golf pants for their matches, providing one of the talking points of the games.

They've gone a step further in Sochi.

The team lit up a fairly routine first practice session at the Ice Cube Curling Center on Saturday by emerging for its 80 minutes on the ice wearing a flamboyant uniform which would have made the late American golfer Payne Stewart proud.

They replaced their crazy pants with what they described as ''rose-painting knickers'' - knee-length pants - complete with soccer socks of the Norwegian national team. To top it all off, they donned flat caps, also known as ''sixpences.''

There were bewildered looks from officials, journalists and rival curlers as the Norway team - Thomas Ulsrud, Torger Nergaard, Christoffer Svae and Haavard Vad Petersson - practiced on all four of the competition rinks in the 3,000-seat arena. No spectators were present for the practice session.

''When Chris (Svae) gave us these, I said, `Come on, give me a break here,''' Ulsrud told The Associated Press, chuckling to himself. ''I can go out there in loud pants and everything, but I said, `You are going to cut them off at the knee? Come on.'

''But I hate to say it, they are really comfortable to play in. Nice and loose.''

The Norwegians are expected to wear nine different uniforms - all provided by American sportswear company Loudmouth - during the round-robin stage, which begins Monday.

The United States men's team also practiced Monday. Unsurprisingly, most of the focus was on the Norwegians on the sheet alongside them.

''Definitely flamboyant,'' said Craig Brown, the alternate for the U.S. ''But I've known the guys a long time - nothing surprises me anymore.''

Previously, Ulsrud and Co. have mostly worn red-white-and-blue pants, matching Norway's national colors. They have branched out here, but they stuck to the Norwegian theme.

The rose-painting print -black and flowery - is traditional to Norway, while the socks are exactly the same type worn by Norway's soccer players. The cap, featuring different colors and different shapes, is also Norwegian-patterned, according to Ulsrud.

''The idea came from old pictures when curling started on the lakes in Scotland,'' Ulsrud said. ''They were pretty much wearing this kind of stuff. So it's actually been done before - it's old school. We are going back to the roots. And it's also what golfers used to wear as well.''

The usual curling pants are plain black, but Norway has taken fashion in the sport to a new level. Only the Russians, who wore patterned red-and-white pants in Saturday's practice session, join the Norwegians in breaking the mold.

A Facebook page dedicated to `The Norwegian Olympic Curling Team's Pants' since the Vancouver Games currently has 544,000 followers, and the numbers will surely rise when the new pants are unleashed on TV audiences and paying spectators next week.

''If we'd have showed up here in black pants,'' Ulsrud said, ''it would have been a massive disappointment. It's just a bit of fun.

''We'll probably play one for each match, but we'll see if we have lucky pants.''

Norway's first match is against the U.S. in the third session on Monday. The Nordic team won the silver medal in Vancouver, losing to Canada in the final but winning plenty of fans along the way.

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