Likened to chess – or bowls on ice – curling is the ultimate test of skill and tactical nous. Here’s why you should tune into the sport at the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang…
Ailsa Craig is a craggy island off the coast of Scotland that is home to a solitary automated lighthouse and thousands of gannets and puffins, but it also has a hidden Olympic story to tell. Its granite has been used to create the stones used in the curling competition in PyeongChang. Aisla Craig literally translates as “fairy rock” and covers 220 acres. It lies 10 miles from the mainland and was created by a volcanic plug, with its granite believed to be one of a kind.
— Olympics (@Olympics) October 5, 2013
Curling may only get its true moment in the sun every four years at the Olympic Games but the sport never fails to capture the imagination of major celebrities. Hollywood A-lister George Clooney is reportedly a big fan of watching the sport as a result of it being televised during the filming of Perfect Storm, while singer Bruce Springsteen is another famous follower. Even The Simpsons have given the game a go in an episode that aired before the Vancouver Games in 2010.
— Helen Hunt (@HelenHunt) November 18, 2017
The British contingent in PyeongChang have an interesting family tale to tell. The women’s team will once again be led by Eve Muirhead, while the 27-year-old’s younger brother Thomas, 22, has been selected for the men’s team under skip Kyle Smith. Another brother, 28-year-old Glen, is travelling as an alternate. It means the Muirheads, whose father Gordon was a former world champion in the sport, make up nearly a third of the British curling team at the Games.
It’s harder than you think
Watching from the comfort of your home come Games time, you could be forgiven for thinking that curling is easier than it looks. The usual refrain is ‘how hard can it be to get a stone to a single point on the ice?’ But it is far more complex to even get close than it looks. It’s also a physically tougher game that it appears on the surface, a player burning an average of 1,800 calories in a match, roughly the recommended daily intake for a woman.
It might come across as a genteel game but it does have its flashpoints. A row was brewing in the sport until 2016 because of the brooms used to help sweep the stone to the right position on the right. Purists felt the broom technology was having too much of an impact on the sport so the rules were refined to give more control to the player with stone in hand. Therefore an error is less likely to be fixed by the sweeping motion.