Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Basics of Curling

AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

The Winter Olympics features quite a few competitions most Americans aren’t familiar with. One that is constantly on the butt-end of jokes in the country is curling.

Although being a demonstration sport in the Olympics as early as 1932, curling became an official sport in the 1998 Nagano games.

People just don’t understand it. Since it’s easier to enjoy a sport when you know what’s going on, I’ve researched the sport and provided a basic viewer’s guide to how the game is played.

There are two teams of four players. Instead of quarters or innings, curling has ends. Each end consists of each player on both teams throwing (delivering) two stones (rocks) each down the ice for a total of eight stones a team per end and 16 total. Games last ten ends (extra as needed if there is a tie).

Then comes the infamous sweeping. Sweeping is done, if needed, to make the stone travel farther and/or change the amount of curl. The stones begin to curl as they slow down, so sweeping earlier increases their distance and straightens their path and sweeping when the stone begins to curl increases sideways distance. Pressure and speed of the brush are determining factors in sweeping.

The objective is to get your stones closest to the center (button) of the target (house).

Like in bocce ball, the team closest to the center gets a point and an additional point for everyone of their rocks closer to the button than the closest from the other team.

The most points a team can get in one end is eight, which is referred to as a “snowman”. These are rare and are said to be the equivalent of a perfect game in baseball.

No points are awarded to stones that are outside of the target rings.

There is the matter of the hammer, similar to getting “last licks” in baseball. Who gets the hammer (last-stone advantage) in the first end is determined before the game, usually by coin-toss. The hammer then is awarded to the team that did not score in the previous end. If no one scores the hammer stays with the same team.

There is also a timer; each time is allowed 73 minutes to throw all their stones and have two one minute time-outs. If the score is tied after regulation each team is given an extra ten minutes and one more 60 second time out per extra end.

If you’re a casual watcher of the sport during the Olympics and are curious as to what the game play is, than this is a good, basic, easy to understand starting point.

For more details visit the World Curling Federation’s rulebook at (PDF File):

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