Obscure Sports Weekly: Curling

The sport of curling, sometimes referred to as “the Roaring Game,” is made up of two teams of four people each and takes place on a rectangular ice rink called a “sheet.” Considered to be one of the world’s oldest team sports, it originated in 16th century Scotland, where it was commonly played on frozen ponds. While the sport is said to bear some similarities to the British game of lawn bowls, curling has a unique setup.

Curling matches begin with a handshake and coin flip to determine which team will make the first attempt at scoring. Two large targets, called “homes,” are laid out on either side of the field. Players must try to shove stones as close to the bullseye as possible. These stones must weigh 44 pounds and most are made out of granite.

Similar to a relay, each member of the team is assigned a certain time to make scoring attempts, with the “lead” of each team going first and the team captain, or “skip,” making the final play. When all eight stones have been moved to one of the targets, at least one point is given to the team who was able to score closest to the bullseye. There is an occasional opportunity for more if two or more stones from the same team come equally close. This marks the “end,” a term used to divide the game into several rounds similar to sets in tennis or innings in baseball. Ends can range from eight to 12 in number. International matches set at exactly 10 ends per game.

Another notable part of the game is the way the skips guide their teams. Before they make the final shots, they stand by the targets and yell to their teammates. This is meant as a signal to use the brush, a sort of ice broom that can enhance the distance of each stone. This strategy is often employed to give either team a competitive advantage. Other techniques used to win include various types of shots—guards, which land directly in the middle of the target in order to block it; takeouts, which can bump the other team’s stone out of scoring position; and draws, typical curling scoring shots.

Scotland and Canada remain the most prevalent countries for curling, but the United States is edging in on the sport’s increasing in popularity. While curling clubs have existed here since the 19th century, the first American championship was held in Chicago in 1957. Organizations for the sport now exist all over America. A multitude of league events happen in Kansas City as springtime approaches.

However, the impact of curling is hardly limited to a few countries, with much of Western Europe boasting teams. It has gained added prominence since 1998, when it was first instated as an official Olympic event for both men and women in Nagano, Japan.


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