What is Curling?
While also called “chess on ice” and the “roarin’ game”, curling is a sport in which two teams each comprising of four players slide their stones on a rectangular sheet of ice. The aim of the game is to allow the stone to slide as close to the center of the target and thus score more points than the opposing team.
Each team takes turns sliding a 19.96 kg granite stone towards what is called the “house” – concentric circles at each end of the Sheet, which looks like a target. While one player delivers the throw, two other players skate alongside the stone while “sweeping” the pebbled ice and clearing a smooth path for the stone to “curl” effortlessly towards the ‘house’. This sweeping motion of the brooms is essential in changing the speed and direction of the stone.
As is the case with most games I’m watched, the best players are reserved for the last. The same applies to curling as well where the team captain or the Skip is usually the last player to throw. Each player throws two stones – the first player to throw is called the Lead, while the other players are the Second, the Third, and the Fourth. The stones are thrown so that they rotate or ‘curl’ clockwise or anticlockwise while they slide, and that is how the game got its name! There are also 3 kinds of shots – a Guard, a Draw, and a Take-out. Guards are thrown to the front of the ‘house’ to block the opposing team’s stone from scoring. Draws are delivered to score a point. Take-outs remove the other team’s stones from the ‘house’. Each team throws 8 stones over the course of ten rounds, or obviously until one team wins.
The World Curling Federation (WCF) was founded in 1966 and was introduced to the Olympic games at the 1924 Chamonix Winter Olympics.
The earliest evidence of curling was found in Scotland in the early 16th century. The International Olympic Committee recognises the Royal Caledonian Curling Club (RCCC) as the first club to officially develop the rules of the sport.
In the early history of curling, the stones were flat with rough edges and of varying sizes. Some early stones also had holes for inserting fingers and for a proper grip. However, this meant that the thrower could not efficiently throw or ‘curl’ the stone. The sport was often played on frozen lakes and ponds, although rinks were built indoors for the sport later in many Scottish towns.
Curling was quite popular in Scotland between the 16th and the 19th century because of the climate which allowed ideal ice conditions. Scotland is also home to the international organisation governing curling, the World Curling Federation, which was originally a committee that was a part of the RCCC. The first world championship, also called the Scotch Cup, was played between Scotland and Canada in 1959. These games were only meant to be played by men but have since seen huge changes, with categories that now includes women and the physically challenged. While this sport is also played at the Paralympics, the rules of the game are quite different. Essentially, in Wheelchair curling, there is no sweeping; instead, delivery sticks are used to push the stones and they are then released near the ‘house’.
16th century: First recorded evidence of curling played in Scotland.
1838: Grand Caledonian Curling Club established in Scotland.
1843: The Grand Caledonian Curling Club renamed as the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.
1924: Curling played at the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France.
1959: Scotch Cup introduced between Scotland and Canada.
1966: International Curling Federation established.
1979: First World Ladies’ Curling Championship held in Scotland.
1990: International Curling Federation renamed as the World Curling Federation.
2002: First World Wheelchair and Senior Curling Championships.
Today, the sport is mostly played in Canada, after being introduced to the sport by Scottish immigrants. Curling is also played all over Europe and some of the important member associations recognized by the WCF are Brazil, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Korea.
Curling, at the Olympics level, is played under two categories – the Teams (Men’s and Women’s) and the Mixed Doubles. While traditional teams are made up of 4 players, the mixed doubles variation consists of 2 players – a male and a female player. Winning the World Championship in both those categories is relatively hard. However, there are 4 players who have been successful – Alina Pætz, Nadine Lehmann, Irene Schori, (all from Switzerland), and Oskar Eriksson (from Sweden). Eriksson is also the only player to achieve this in a single season (in 2019).
Another important player worth mentioning is Anette Norberg from Sweden. She has been the skip for all her teams since 1982. She has so far participated in 10 World Championships (and has won 3 gold medals) and 15 times in the European championships (and won 7 titles).
The WCF tracks and ranks the competitions won by all the member associations. While Sweden leads the Men’s and Women’s WCF World Ranking, China leads in Wheelchair curling. Canada leads in the Mixed category. India became a member association of the WCF in 2019. The Indian team, led by the skip P. N. Raju, made their debut at the 20th Pacific International Cup (PIC) in April last year. Since the next Winter Olympics will be held in 2022, I have my fingers crossed for a few medals in curling.