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A beginner's guide to curling

By Erica Brancato
On February 12, 2014

Last semester, a guy in my public speaking class gave a speech on curling. Before his speech, he explained the sport and I really didn't think anything of it. Now that the winter Olympics is upon us, I became more invested in curling. 

Most people write off curling as more of a pastime than an actual sport, but after watching it and figuring out the rules-I realized curling is more than meets the eye. I'll admit, in previous winter Olympics I had no idea what the point of curling was. I'd watch it for a few minutes because I was amused by the way it looked, but once you take a little time to watch the sport the only thing that's complicated is the terminology. Curling itself is pretty simple. 

The object of curling is essentially to slide your stone closest to the button, or the center of the target of circles that looks like a bull's-eye on the ice. Each team of four players throws, or slides, two stones alternating with the opposing team down a 142-foot long sheet of ice toward the house (the target of circles at the opposite end). 

Unlike other sports that have halves or quarters, curling has ends. Similar to an inning in baseball, after each team throws eight stones, the end is completed. Typically there are about ten ends total in curling. Points are awarded after each end based on the final positions of the stones in the house. The team who has the stone closest to the button gets a point and one additional point for every stone closer to the center than the opposing team's stones. 

The surface of the ice is "pebbled," which means it is sprayed with water droplets that freeze and give the ice a rough surface unlike a hockey rink. This is where the brooms come into play. When a team member releases the stone after sliding on the ice for 20 to 25 yards, they intentionally spin it in one direction or the other. The sweepers sweep the ice to control the distance and lateral movement of the stone. The sweepers are there to create friction on the ice to keep the stone traveling and and decrease the amount of curl. 

There are two sweepers that control the movement of the stone down the ice, while another teammate is called the skip. The skip is the coordinator or director of the stone. The skip stands on the other end of the ice closest to the house you are aiming for and directs where to sweep on the ice and when. The skip applies a method to the madness by leading the team and giving it direction.

Curling is like golf or baseball. It can be slow at times, but it requires skill and technique. A staple part of the winter Olympics is watching the most random sports along with a few normal ones like hockey and speed skating-so curling fits right in. Curling is one of the calmest competitive sports there is, which is fascinating and confusing at the same time. Even though it looks like bocce and shuffleboard on ice, curling comes around every few years-so enjoy it while you can.  

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