Today, after watching almost ten days of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, I finally decided to look into the sport of curling. It goes without saying that trying to understand a sport by listening to the commentary is my often tried and tested method. But in this case, it was an absolute failure. The commentators provided no more clues to the object of the whole exercise other than gasping in delight when a particularly good move is made – which to a layperson like me, appeared to be one stone hitting another. So, what’s with the stones and placements? Why do the players look so intense? Why are they shouting? What’s with the brooms and the constant brushing? Won’t a vacuum do a better job? And why do they not slip on the ice? Is it the shoes? Can I buy them because I am constantly slipping on snow. In fact, I can even slip on concrete.
And then I wonder, why am I even interested? Its just a sport. And then, why not? Thousands of people are hooked on it enough to have a World Curling Federation. My initial misdiagnosis led me to figure that surely there’s more to it than what’s shown on TV. Besides its an OLYMPIC SPORT. Not every sport qualifies for the Olympics.
So, it was onto the internet and what I found so far was actually quite interesting. The curling stone is made from ONLY granite and they ONLY come from two sources in the world. One on the island of Ailsa Craig, off the coast of Scotland. And the other at the Trefor Granite Quarry in Wales. Kays of Scotland has exclusive rights to the Ailsa Craig granite and have been supplying their stones to the last 5 Olympic games!! I didn’t even realize that the stones were so special. To me they looked like any other round boulder with a pig tail handle at the top.
And then the stones can be delivered straight or the curler can curl the stone around an obstacle. (ala Angelina Jolie curling a bullet in the movie “WANTED”). Now this was getting more interesting! And then, I also read that the sweepers can influence the path of the stone by how much they brush the ice, how long and when. Stones are then strategically placed to block a path, knock another stone out or fortify a position. Wow! All of a sudden, this went from a game of marbles to the nickname given to curling “Chess on Ice”
In summary, I relearned the lesson – never judge a book by its cover. I would not have found all this out if I had just flicked to another channel. Now, who would’ve thought that of Curling.