Curling is a sport that has been in the Winter Olympics since 1998, but just where did this sport come from? With the addition of mixed doubles for the first time in the 2018 games, the game has come a long way. Therefore it only seems right that we get down with the ice and find out just what it is that makes curling an Olympic-worthy sport.
A brief lowdown
Back in the 16th century, it looks as though the Scots were bored of their frozen winters and were looking for a way to ramp it up a bit. It was then that someone began to push stones across a frozen lake. It sounds simple enough, but add in some competitors, and you’ve soon got yourself a cut-throat sport! Around 100 years later people began to use the typical curling stones that we’re now used to seeing with the handles on top. The noise of the stones sliding across the ice earned the sport the nickname “the roaring game”.
The idea of the game
If you’ve ever watched curling, you should’ve seen the giant bullseye at the end of the ice. Well, that is known as the “house”. In the middle of this house is a circle called the “button”, and the main goal is to get your stone as close to the button as possible. Now, the ice leading up to the house is known as the “sheet”. It is usually around 150 foot in length, and this is what the team have to push their stone down. It isn’t as easy as it appears though, due to the addition of “pebbles” – AKA droplets of water. The pebbles on the sheet can cause the stone to curl off path meaning the rest of the team have to help their stone keep to the correct course. There’s a lot of jargon, but once you’ve got your head around it all, it starts to make sense.
There are usually four teammates in a curling team which consist of: one lead, one second, one vice-skip, and one skip. The skip stands in the house to give the others a target to aim for when sliding the stone, while the other three are tasked with delivering the stone and sweeping. After the stone has been released, the sweepers then set about frantically sweeping in front of their moving piece. They aren’t just super clean or late on tidying up; these sweepers have a clever tactic up their sleeve. The pebbles on the sheet all slow the stone down. Therefore sweeping will increase the temperature of the ice which will melt the pebbles which reduces the friction – keeping up? The further the stone goes can better the chance of getting closer to that important button.
Each round in curling is known as an “end”. Typically ten ends are played in Olympic games unless there is a tie, or they are playing mixed teams. Two teams battle to out-curl the other by alternately sending out eight stones each. The teams can knock the other’s stone out of the house if they can hit it, until someone is closest to the button. At the end of the final, whoever is closest to the button wins the point. However, if no one is in the house then you’ve thrown “blank ends” and let’s face it, no one wants that. Because it scores you no points, of course.
Learning about new sports can be an incredible way to expand your knowledge of the world. Plus, you’ll now sound super smart whenever the curling comes on the TV. Bonus. It looks as though there are a lot of technical words involved with the sport, but after seeing some ends on the TV, you should soon pick it all up! Who knew there was so much behind this great sport?