Curling Crash Course

By: Morgan Stutz and Mary-Elizabeth Pratt

Any other year, throwing a stone across the ice wouldn’t be all that interesting, but this year, it’s taken the world by storm.  Curling, which was officially made an Olympic sport in 1998, was invented in Scotland in the 16th century and its gaining momentum opens doors for athletes in this oft overlooked sport.

To the untrained observer curling appears to be a simple sport. One player pushes a stone towards a target and the other players on his or her team sweep the ice in front of the stone. Each team has eight stones, also called rocks, and the target that they slide their curling stones across the ice towards is known as the house.

The teams alternate in throwing stones with the goal of scoring points by getting their team’s stone closest to the center of the house at the end of the round, known in curling as an end.  This concludes when all of both teams’ stones have been thrown. The trajectory of the sliding stones is determined by the sweeping of the ice in the stone’s path. Swept ice allows the rock to slide faster and straighter. The last stone to be thrown in an end is called the hammer and is used to the advantage of the team that throws last in each end.

There are four players for each curling team. The skip, or captain, typically determines the velocity, curl (rotation of the stone), and direction of each throw. Other than the skip, each player takes turns throwing and sweeping. When the skip throws, the vice-skip takes the skip’s place in directing the other players. The two players not directing the throw or throwing work to sweep the ice. The player throwing the stone is known as the lead.

Due to the strategic objective of the sport, it is often referred to as “chess on ice.” In the course of each game, three types of throws (or shots) are used to gain points and prevent the other team from scoring: guards, draws, and takeouts. A guard is thrown in front of the house to make the opposing team’s shot more difficult, a draw is meant to reach the house in the attempt to score points, and a takeout is used to remove stones from play.

New trends in the world of curling include wheelchair curling, youth curling competitions and mixed doubles curling. In this year’s Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Games, curling and wheelchair curling have both swept onto the stage. Curling in the Olympics will finish up Feb. 20-21 and wheelchair curling in the Paralympics will take place next month in Sochi. If you would like to learn more about the sports I encourage you to check out the World Curling Federation’s website, www.worldcurling.org/.

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