What is curling?
Seemingly simple. A granite rock, a sheet of ice, a target 42 yards away. Finish with your rocks closer to the target than your opponents’, and your team of four wins a game in which keen competition mixes with a wonderful social atmosphere.
But wait: this is an Olympic sport, played by people across the world from ages 8 to 80. There must be more to it.
And there is. The rocks curl (or curve) down the sheet, traveling over an ice surface rife with nuances thanks to specially applied ‘pebble’ of frozen mist that lets the 42-pound rocks move with surprisingly little effort. Finesse and control of how hard rocks are thrown (the ‘weight’) become the important factors, not strength. The weight of a thrown rock affects the amount of curl, but a rock’s progress can be altered by judicious sweeping to polish the ice in front of it, making a rock move both farther and straighter. Added complications are crafty opponents who place their stones in positions to block your access to the center of the target (the ‘house’). You have to think several rocks ahead to make sure that, at the completion of each end of 16 rocks, your rocks are closest to the button, the center of the house.
So curling is a game of strategy, of finesse, and yes of fitness. A team’s sweepers travel up to two miles in a game and, at the highest levels of the sport, expend the same energy as a sprinter in a 200 meter dash.
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