Learning to Appreciate the Sport of Curling
Copyright 2017 by Dale Fehringer
people appreciate the sport of curling, and many see it as an
excuse to leave Olympics TV coverage to wash the dishes or run an
errand. But a few years ago we had an opportunity to learn
to appreciate the sport.
few years ago in the small town of Naseby, New Zealand, we developed
an appreciation for the sport of curling. Prior to this, curling had
been one of those sports (like fencing and water aerobics) we saw
only on TV during the Olympics. And while we assumed that
participants were skilled at what they did, we had little
understanding of why grown-ups would chase a chunk of stone down the
ice with brooms.
as it turns out, has the only dedicated indoor curling rink in the
Southern Hemisphere and by a fortunate coincidence the Pacific
Curling Championships were taking place while we were there. So off
we went to watch this peculiar sport. We sat in a small
spectator galley above the two curling alleys and watched the action.
Between matches, we were allowed to walk down and try our skills at
curling. It was a confusing and humbling experience.
the ice, we watched Olympic-level men’s and women’s teams
compete. There were teams from Australia, China, Japan, Korea, and
New Zealand vying for points that would qualify them for the
were seated behind the Australian women’s team. They were
watching their male counterparts play a team from China and waiting
for their turn later that night. The ladies were friendly and
offered to explain the sport to us.
is a team sport, they told us, with some similarities to shuffle
board and bowling. It’s played on a rectangular sheet of ice
by two teams of four players each. Teams take turns sliding heavy,
polished granite stones (called “rocks”) down the ice
toward the target (called the “house”).
game consists of ten “ends” (an end is similar to a
baseball inning). During each end both teams deliver eight stones –
two per player. The object is to get the rock as close to the center
of the house as possible. Two sweepers with brooms accompany each
rock and help direct it to a desired resting place by smoothing the
ice in front of it.
the Australian ladies told us, the trick to scoring lies in the last
throws. Early throws set up obstacles in front of the house, or knock
those obstacles away. The
last throws for each team are aimed at the house and decide who gets
the points (only the closest one or two score).
team with the most points at the conclusion of ten ends is the
is not a well-funded sport in many countries. Most curlers have full
time jobs, and some pay their own way to regional matches.
Australian women sitting near us spent months raising money for their
trip to New Zealand with bake sales and fund-raisers, and much of
their trip was on their own nickel. Most of them are mothers, and
they talked about the difficulty of leaving their families behind as
they compete. But this sport seems to be in their blood, and
they have been curling most of their lives.
we understood what was going on, we found curling to be an
interesting and graceful sport. The next time we see curling
TV during the Olympics, we won’t dismiss it so lightly, and we
will probably bore our family and friends with this story. But, we
now know curling has a world-wide following and requires skill and
dedication. And we have added it to the list of sports we
to those dedicated lady curlers from Australia who spent an evening
of their busy lives teaching us about the art of their sport –
thank you. Long may your rocks roar!
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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