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2018 Winter Olympics: Curling

2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

Thawing gender relations on the ice

Curling 2018 Winter Olympics
Source: AP Photo/Aaron Favila

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Did You Know?

Curling is one of four winter Olympic sports being contested indoors. The other three are hockey, figure skating, and speed skating.

 

The sport of curling dates back to the early 1500s in Scotland and was reportedly brought to North America by British troops in the 1700s during the Revolutionary War.

Curling made its Olympic debut at the Winter Olympic Games in 1924. It came back in the 1932 Lake Placid Games as a demonstration sport, but then went on a 56-year Olympic hiatus, returning again as a demonstration sport at the 1988 and 1992 Games. Since the 1998 Nagano Games, curling has been contested as an official medal sport for both men and women. This year sees the introduction of mixed doubles, a two-person, mixed-gender event. 

Despite a surge in interest in recent years, the U.S. team has famously struggled against neighbor and rival Canada. The first and only medal in program history came in 2006 thanks to Pete Fenson's bronze-medal team. The U.S. team has never placed higher than the Canadian team.

The events

As far as the actual game goes, think shuffleboard on ice combined with the strategy of a game of bowls or bocce.

Each match is made up of ends, or periods, where two teams of four players each take turns sliding 42-pound polished granite stones down a sheet of ice towards a bullseye made up of four concentric circles. This bullseye, which is 12 ft in diameter, is known as the "house" and its center the "tee." The tee is located 126 ft from where the shooter starts.

When the stone is released by the shooter, it is done with a special technique that involves a twist of the wrist. Like a bowling ball hooks (or curves) down an alley, so too does the stone as it glides down the ice. This curve is known as the "curl."

As the stone curls towards its intended target (perhaps the tee, or perhaps an opponent's stone that is in the way) the other three team members sweep the ice with brooms, causing the stone to speed up or change directions. The "skip" is the captain of the team and usually shouts out sweeping instructions.

Each team member shoots twice, so there are 16 shots in each end. A team scores points when its stones are closest to the tee after all 16 shots. Each match consists of 10 ends.

Mixed Doubles will switch up the game, creating teams of two: one man and one woman. Because teams are only two people each, the number of stones will be six, rather than the normal eight.

The Pyeongchang Games

The curling events will be held at the Gangneung Curling Centre, the only facility in the Gangneung Coastal Circuit to have been built prior to Olympic preparations. The events will begin with mixed doubles on Feb. 8, and will conclude with the women's finals on Feb. 25.

 
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