Winter Olympics 2022: What skills it really takes to do curling (and why curlers sweep the ice)
Posted On February 16, 2022
Watching the Winter Olympics, it’s patently obvious that many of the athletes competing in Beijing are capable of feats mere mortals can only dream of.
Aerial skiing, snowboard slopestyle, biathlon, figure skating – the list of incredibly difficult sports are as long as a ski jump.
And then there’s curling.
If there’s one sport at the Winter Olympics that people look at and think, “I could do that”, curling is it.
The sport dominates coverage of the Games, mostly because it always seems to be on.
But, for those who’ve miraculously managed to miss it, the sport involves players sliding a 20kg, polished granite stone across a sheet of ice, while a teammate shuffles alongside the stone, sweeping the ice just in front of it.
It’s a bit like lawn bowls, only considerably more aerobic due to the aforementioned manic sweeping.
SEE BEN O’SHEA’S ATTEMPT AT CURLING IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE
Curling dates back to at least 16th century Scotland, which we know because a curling stone engraved with the date “1511” was found when a pond in Dunblane was drained.
It only became a medal sport at the Olympics in 1998 in Nagano, although the sport featured on a demonstration basis as far back as 1924.
Since its official inclusion, Canada has emerged as a superpower in the sport, winning the majority of gold medals.
Curling WA is committed to challenging Canada’s dominance, and has built a small but passionate cadre of players.
“Curling WA was established in 2014, and we first sent curlers to the Nationals in 2017, (where) our top men’s team finished 4th out of eight teams,” Curling WA founder Elliott Douglas said.
“In 2018, they improved to 2nd out of nine, and in 2019, the last year we held Nationals because of COVID, they finished 3rd out of seven.”
West Aussie curlers have represented Australia in the past, so it’s conceivable we may see one at future Olympics.
Douglas said the suggestion curling was a sport anyone could do is one of its biggest assets.
“Everyone can do it. It’s not very often that you have a sport where juniors and adults, seniors and the physically challenged, such as our wheelchair-bound or vision impaired members, can all compete together,” he said.
“You have the skill side of things, where you are trying to perfect the delivery of your shots, and you have the tactical side of it, where you are trying to outthink your opposition, and get them guessing what shots you’re going to play next – it’s a fascinating sport.”
And for those wondering about the sweeping bit – it heats up the ice, thus reducing friction with the stone, resulting in a change in distance of a shot by up to three meters, depending on how you apply it.
So, next time you look at curling at the Olympics and think you could do it, maybe you should actually get off the couch and have a crack.