Some background to help enjoy Olympic curling

VANCOUVER, British Columbia _ Curling, an ancient ice sport that originated in Scotland, is making its quadrennial slide back into the public consciousness at the Vancouver Olympics. Here is some information on the sport that made its Olympic debut in Chamonix, France, in 1924 but then disappeared again until Nagano, Japan, in 1998, where it […]

VANCOUVER, British Columbia _ Curling, an ancient ice sport that originated in Scotland, is making its quadrennial slide back into the public consciousness at the Vancouver Olympics.

Here is some information on the sport that made its Olympic debut in Chamonix, France, in 1924 but then disappeared again until Nagano, Japan, in 1998, where it was introduced for men and women.

_ Curling involves two teams sliding 19.1-kilogram (42-pound) granite stones toward a target of concentric circles on the ice. One game consists of 10 “ends” during which each member of two four-person teams slides two stones.

_ The closest stone to the center of the target earns a point. If a team has the two closest stones it earns two points, and so on. The team with the most points at the end of 10 ends wins.

_ After the stone is sent sliding down the ice, two players use brooms and sweeping motions to control it _ to make it go faster or slower, or to change its direction, or “curl.”

_ It’s serious. Although curlers like to have fun, counting the social aspect of the sport as a big part of the experience they love, curlers around the world have taken their fitness to a new level in preparation for these games. They have personal trainers, high-intensity training camps, sports psychologists and more. The teams that do not train hard off the ice are the ones that fall behind everybody else.

_ Behave yourself. This sport, dating to 15th-century Scotland, prides itself on a tradition of sportsmanship and good manners. The Chinese women didn’t talk to the media after Sunday’s practice in order to keep their focus, and it caused an uproar of sorts. On Monday, when they passed the media, they smiled and said “hi.”

_ The terminology is foreign to say the least. There’s broomstacking, the post-match ritual of heading to the lounge with the opponent for a friendly drink. (Traditionally, the winners buy the beers.) The “button” is the innermost circle within the “house” _ the area the stone must cross into to be in play.

And the “hog line” is a line that players can’t cross when releasing their rocks.

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