Friday, February 26, 2010

Newsy: The Basics of Curling

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The Vancouver Olympics are opening the world’s eyes to a sport few understand—curling. 

So how does curling work, exactly? When the stone is thrown down the ice, it spins slightly. Time Magazine explains:  “The game is divided into 10 ends, similar to a baseball inning. In every end, each teammate throws two rocks, totaling eight rocks across the ice, and into the house. The house actually, it looks like a big bull’s eye. What’s funny is the colors of the rings don’t make a difference. Every rock is worth just one point. So, the team with the rock closest to the center of the house after eight turns gets a point for that end.”

Many of the athletes don't even look like your average Olympians -- one Canadian curler is pregnant. And while commentators are making a sport of making fun of curling, the blog DCist says curling is harder than it looks: "… You'd be hard-pressed to convince this writer that your hamstrings and your arms are prepared to go 10 rounds of sliding on the most slippery ice you've ever been on …mostly balancing on one foot to slide down said sheets of pure cold … while someone is screaming instructions at you like a banshee." 

Once the closest team to the button -- or center -- is decided, every rock that four-person team has inside the rings gets a point. 

On NBC, John Shuster, the current skip -- or captain -- of the U.S. team explains the role physics plays in the sport: “Getting the curling stone from the start to the house is all physics -- starting with the push off from what’s called the hack ... Then the sweepers move in. This is like a synthetic material that has just a little bit of abrasiveness. Curling terminology as far as sweeping goes is anything you could consider versions of 'yes'. But usually it's 'hurry' and 'hard'.”

Watch MOJO describes the players' fancy footwear: “The shoes are really special. In curling you have two types of shoes. We have one that really grips on the ice; we call the ‘gripper’. But just before we shoot, you’re going to use the slider. See, the slider here is made up of either steel or Teflon, hard plastic. This material is really, really slippery.”

It might be difficult to see on your screen, but even the curling ice is different. It's slightly bumpy, not flat and smooth like hockey or skating rink ice. 

And there's also specific curling etiquette. The winning team is supposed to take the losing team out for a drink. A writer for the Bleacher Report praises the sportsmanship on the ice: “If you 'burn' a stone (or accidentally hit it with your broom or foot), you are expected to call a penalty on yourself. This isn't like the NFL where you try and hold a player and hope the refs don't catch you."

So now that we've summarized this slippery sport, what do you think of curling? Should it be part of the Olympics?

Writer: Amanda Heisey




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