Curling Demystified

Here’s a non-book related post for you to help get you excited for the 2018 Olympics! Curling begins tomorrow (Thursday, February 8th), and you can check out the entire broadcast schedule here.

Every four years when the Winter Olympics come around, Americans watch many sports with which they are not very familiar. One of those sports is curling. Watching curling during the Olympics often leads to many questions. Why are they using brooms on the ice? What’s with all the yelling? What exactly is the point of this game? You mean there are sports played on ice besides hockey?! If you have wondered about any of these questions, you have come to the right place.

In truth, curling is much less complicated than spectators unfamiliar to the sport usually think. Two teams of four compete against each other. The goal is to get as many of your team’s stones closest to the center of the house, the thing that looks like a target, to score points. Each team has eight stones. Each period of play is called an End, and all sixteen stones-eight from each team-are played during each End. After all the Ends, the team with the most points wins the game. Easy, right?

Curling stones are not like the rocks you find in your backyard. They are between 38 and 44 pounds, so it takes no small amount of skill to throw them down the ice. By sweeping the ice in front of the stones, team members can increase a stone’s speed, helping it reach the center of the house. Sweeping can also change a stone’s direction, causing it to curl. Once a stone is thrown the captain of the team, called the skip, shouts encouragement and instruction to the sweepers. Stones aren’t just for scoring. They can be thrown in front of the house to block the other team, or they can knock the other team’s stones out of the house.

LA resident Kristi Jacobsen participated on a curling team in New Jersey throughout high school and college. Her extended family in Canada all played or watched curling. “Curling is a sport for all ages,” Jacobsen explained, “and while it can be modified for children or older adults, playing competitively requires flexibility and balance, as well as enough general fitness to be jogging up and down the ice for several ends per game.”

Jacobsen enjoyed playing the skip, the team captain, or vice skip since those players are in charge of strategy for the team. Other positions include the Lead who throws first, followed by the Second, Vice Skip, and then the Skip. The Skip throws last since he or she has directed the other players during their throws.

Shoes worn by Curlers are unique to the sport. One shoe is a slider, and one is a grip. If you are right-handed, the slider is on the right foot, to assist with throws.

In 2010, in anticipation of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Stephen Colbert visited the Plainfield Curling Club in Plainfield, NJ – coincidentally, the same club where Jacobsen curled. Colbert filmed a segment on curling that appeared on the Colbert Report, and can be viewed here. Watch the segment to learn more about curling, and enjoy Colbert’s humorous discovery that curling is much tougher than it looks.

So now you know – the purpose of the brooms, the reason for the yelling, and the whole point of curling. Impress your friends with your knowledge, and cheer enthusiastically for the American curling teams during the 2018 Winter Olympics.

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