Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sport: Curling

What synchronised swimming is to the Summer Olympics, curling is to the Winter Olympics, sports that are head scratching to watch and the cause of countless discussions as to whether they should even be Olympic sports.

With the TV on in the background as I worked at my computer, I noticed that the Olympic coverage had shifted to the curling events. There was a curious fascination in watching and also in waiting for the sweepers to fall over the curling stones, but they never did. To picture curling, think lawn bowls on ice with pensioners with brooms sweeping in front of each lawn bowl bowled.


To see some interesting shots and videos, click on the following:

How curling stones are made (fascinating and worth the look:

Interesting curling throws and shots (or whatever the terms is):

Sexing up curling:

Curling information and trivia:
- Two teams, each of 4 players, compete against each other. Each team has 8 stones.
- The aim is to slide curling stones at a target, called the house. After each series of throws, called an end, scores are taken, A game may have 8 or 10 ends.
- Of the 4 players on a team, one or two are throwers, the rest are sweepers. The actions of the sweepers influence the path and speed of the curling stone.
- The constant and loud yelling by team members is the relaying of instructions and directions between sweepers and throwers as to sweeping.
- Whereas the thrower’s sweepers can influence placement of the curling stone, the opponent’s sweepers can also sweep at the end to place the stone in a less advantageous position.
- The shoes of the thrower and sweepers are Teflon coated. When needed, a non-Teflon cover is placed on one shoe to assist with traction, the respective shoes being called the slider and the gripper.
- Accidentally touching a stone with broom or body is known as “burning a stone”, with the consequences varying according to the circumstances.
- Curling is most popular in Canada.
- Curling, more so than other sports, has a strong integral culture of sporting etiquette. As examples, it is frowned upon to cheer or rejoice in an opponent’s failed shot (which caused problems in the 2010 Winter Olympics when spectators cheered at inappropriate times, unaware of the convention), and that players are expected to announce when they have burned a stone.
- Curling is believed to have been invented in Scotland, with the earliest written reference thereto being in 1531.
- Paintings by Bruegel in 1565 show Dutch peasants curling see below).
- When an old pond in Scotland was drained, curling stones inscribed with the dates 1511 and 1551 were found.
- The term curling first appeared in print in 1620 as the name of the sport. The word curling comes from the Scottish word curl, describing the motion of the stone,
- In early days, curling stones were simply flat bottomed river stones.
- The practice of adding handles to shaped stones is believed to date from weavers who used curling as a means of recreation from weaving. The stones were heavy weights forming part of their weaving equipment. The detachable brass handles were used when needed for curling and, in between, were kept polished by their wives on the mantelpieces.
- Scottish emigrants took the game to Canada.
- It has been a Winter Olympics sport since 1998.
- Traditional curling stones are made from a granite called ailsite found only at Ailsa Craig, an island in Scotland. The granite has a low water absorption, with the result that it inhibits freezing and wear of the stone. That island has now been declared a wildlife reserve and the quarry has been closed. The island/quarry owners advise that they have enough granite stockpiled to last to 2020.
- The stones can cost up to $1500 each but local clubs have cheaper substitutes.
- Each stone has individual characteristics; such as how it slides, curls and where its centre of gravity is located. Top teams have pages of written notes about each stone.

Click on photos to enlarge:

Breugel's 1565 painting showing Dutch peasants curling (bottom left)

Postcard of curlers at Eglington Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland, 1860

Men curling 1909 Ontario, Canada

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