If you’re anything like us, you’ve been consuming all the sports in the Winter Olympics, set in Beijing, for the last few weeks. This year’s Olympic Games will feature men’s, women’s, and mixed double tournaments. While you might be familiar with most of the sports, one that often tends to trip people up is curling.
One of the oldest team sports in the world, curling originated in the 16th century in Scotland. Traditionally, curling was played on frozen canals or ponds with stones. Over time, it transformed into the standard 38-44 pound stone and had indoor capabilities.
Curling first entered the Olympics in 1924 but it was only for men. It took many years to add women into the program (1998) and even longer for mixed doubles (2018) to exist.
How it’s played
Curling begins with two teams of four players who then take turns sliding stones on a sheet of ice toward a target. In basketball this is known as the net, but in curling it’s known as the house — the place where you score.
Essentially, each player has two stones to throw each round. They start by gliding the stone, at which point two other players from the same team take over and guide or change the direction (or path) of the stone by sweeping ice in front of it. The goal is for each team to get their stones as close to the center of the house as possible.
Much like darts, they earn points based on the positioning of their stones. However, points are only awarded if they touch the actual house. One team can score in an end but not two, and the team with the most points after 10 ends is the winner.
In mixed doubles, you’ll find a team of one male player and one female player. With five stones thrown per end, each game has a total of eight ends. There are three main kinds of shots that you can get: guard, draw, and takeout. Guard, deals with protecting the stones in the house. Draw is given when you reach the house in an attempt to score, and takeout is to remove other stones.
You’ll always see one of two players that are sweeping the ice as the stone glides across the field. They do this to clear the ice debris to reduce friction and allow stones to travel longer distances. By sweeping, they can also straighten out the path of the stone as it gets closer and closer to the house, for a better chance at scoring.
For the Olympics, a total of 10 nations participate in each event. There is a preliminary round where the 10 teams play in a round-robin tournament and only four advance. Then there’s the semifinal where winners will play for gold and silver, and losers for bronze. Below are all teams still scheduled to play.
Men’s (February 9-19): Canada, China, Denmark, Great Britain, Italy, Norway, ROC, Sweden, Switzerland, USA
Women’s (February 9-19): Canada, China, Denmark, Great Britain, Japan, Korea, ROC, Sweden, Switzerland, USA
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Photo via Richard Heathcote