Curling is a winter sport where players slide stones on ice, towards a targeted area. In this case, the area is segmented into four concentric circles. The sport is played by two teams, each with four players. They take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones, also called rocks, across the ice curling sheet towards the house, a circular target marked on the ice. There are 8 stones for each team and every player gets to slide 2 stones. The purpose of curling is to accumulate the highest score for a game. The match ends when all players have thrown all their stones.
Curling as a sport became part of the Winter Olympic Games in the 1998 edition. It currently includes men’s, women’s and mixed doubles tournaments. The mixed doubles event was played for the first time in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Since it became a medal sport on the Olympics, Canada has been dominating the Curling events. Their men’s teams won gold in 2006, 2010, and 2014. They also won silver in 1998 and 2002. The women’s team won gold in 1998 and 2014, silver in 2010, and a bronze in 2002 and 2006. The mixed doubles team won gold in 2018. The sport is organized and controlled by the World Curling Federation. For more information about it, check their official website.
The first evidence of a similar sport takes us back to 1511 in Scotland. A curling stone was uncovered in Dunblane, Scotland and it had 1511 inscribed on it. However, the first written reference to a contest using stones on ice was found in Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire, in February 1541. Additionally, there were two paintings, dating back to 1565 that showed Flemish peasants playing something similar, although they didn’t have brooms. Nevertheless, the first time the word Curling appeared in print was in 1620 in Perth, Scotland.
The sport is known as the “roaring sport” all over Scotland and New Zealand as well. It’s called like that because of the sound the stones make while traveling over the pebble. Even the name of the sport is derived from the Scottish and English verb curl which describes the motion that the stone makes in this sport. However, even though the first Curling clubs were created in Europe, mostly Scotland, at the moment Canada is the best when it comes to this sport. Keep in mind that in the early history of curling, the playing stones were simply flat-bottomed stones from rivers or fields, which lacked a handle and were of inconsistent size, shape and smoothness.
Curling was taken to Canada by Scottish emigrants. The Royal Montreal Club is the oldest club which still exists in North America and it was established in 1807. The first club for this sport in the US was established in 1830. By the end of the 19th century, the sport spread all over Europe, especially Switzerland and Sweden. Scots were the ones who took the sport there; however, they are not the most successful nation in the sport. The curling primate is firmly held by Canada.
Rules & Equipment
The purpose of a game is to score points by getting stones closer to the house center, or the “button”, than the other team’s stones. Players from either team alternate in taking shots from the far side of the sheet. An end is complete when all eight rocks from each team have been delivered, a total of sixteen stones. If the teams are tied at the end of the game, play continues for as many ends as may be required to break the tie. The winner is the team with the highest score after all ends have been completed. A game may be conceded if considered unwinnable.
International competitive games are usually played for 10 ends. Each side has 73 minutes to complete all their throws. The teams can each take two 1-minute long timeouts during a game. If extra ends are required, each team is allowed 10 minutes of playing time to complete its throws and one added 60-second timeout for each extra end.
The main equipment needed for curling is the sheet, the stone, and the broom. The playing surface or curling sheet is defined by the World Curling Federation rules. It is a rectangular area of ice, carefully prepared to be as flat and level as possible. It’s 146 to 150 feet in length by 14.5 to 16.5 feet in width. The target, which the players need to get as close as possible to with their stones is called “the house”. The curling stone, otherwise called a rock is made of granite and is specified by the federation as well.
The stone has to weigh between 38 and 44 pounds, have a maximum circumference of 36 inches, and a minimum height of 4.5 inches. The players slide the stone towards the house as they try to score as many points as possible. Last but not least, we have the broom as part of the equipment. It’s called the brush and is used to sweep the ice surface in the path of the stone. Additionally, it’s often used as a balancing aid during delivery of the stone. Other equipment includes special shoes. The players wear slider shoes and gripper shoes. Additionally, there are curling pants, gloves, mittens, and a stopwatch as part of the equipment.
The rules in this sport are closely connected to something that’s known as the “Spirit of Curling”. That means even though there is a referee, the game is mostly controlled by the competitors. For instance, they congratulate their opponents for a good shot and for scoring points. Also, if a player happens to touch an opponents stone by accident which results in it moving, the player then signals the referee himself that the stone was moved. Even at the highest levels of play, players are expected to call their own fouls.
The winner is the team having the highest number of accumulated points at the completion of ten ends. Points are scored at the conclusion of each of these ends as follows: when each team has thrown its eight stones, the team with the stone closest to the button wins that end; the winning team is then awarded one point for each of its own stones lying closer to the button than the opponent’s closest stone. There are two types of scoreboards used in Curling. The first one is a baseball-style scoreboard and the other one is a club scoreboard.
As we mentioned above, Curling as a sport is organized and controlled by the World Curling Federation. As any other sport, the most important competition is the Winter Olympics. However, there are many other annual competitions for this sport. Here are some of them:
- World Championships;
- World Junior/Senior Championships;
- Mixed Doubles Championships;
- European Championships;
- Scotties Tournament of Hearts;
- Continental Cup;
- Canada Cup of Curling
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