Dale Says

February 18, 2010

Learning to Appreciate the Sport of Curling

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Dale @ 12:12 pm

In the small town of Naseby, New Zealand I developed an appreciation for the sport of curling.

Prior to this, curling had been one of those sports (like fencing and water aerobics) I saw only on TV during the Olympics. And while I assumed that participants were skilled at what they did, I had little understanding why grown-ups would chase a stone down the ice with brooms.

Naseby, as it turns out, has the only dedicated indoor curling rink in the Southern Hemisphere and by a fortunate coincidence the Pacific Curling Championships were taking place while I was there. So off I went to watch this peculiar sport. I saw Olympic-level men’s and women’s teams competing from Australia, China, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand, watching from a spectator’s gallery above the ice. I sat behind the Australian women’s team, who were watching their male counterparts and waiting for their turn to compete later that night. The ladies patiently explained the sport to me.

Curling is a team sport with similarities to shuffle board and bowling, played on a rectangular sheet of ice by two teams of four players each.

Teams take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones down the ice toward the target (called the house).

A game consists of ten “ends” (an end is similar to a baseball inning).

During an end each team delivers eight stones – two per player.

The object is to get the stone as close to the center of the circles as possible.

Two sweepers with brooms accompany each rock and help direct the rocks to a desired resting place by smoothing the ice in front of them.

As the Australian ladies instructed, “it’s all about the last throws.” Early throws are designed to set up obstacles in front of the target, or to knock those obstacles away. The last throws for each team are aimed at the target and decide who gets the points (only the closest one or two score).

The team with the most points at the conclusion of ten ends is the winner.

Most curlers have other full time jobs, and some have to pay their own way to regional matches like the one we saw. Most of the Australian women players are also mothers, and they talked about the difficulty of leaving their families behind as they compete. But it seems to be in their blood, as they have been curling for most of their lives.

I’m a convert, and I now believe that curling is an interesting and graceful sport.

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