It's one of the most peculiar but fascinating sports at the Olympics – using brushes and stones and demanding more strategy than physical prowess. Keep an eye on the Canadian men's team, who won gold in Torino.
Who to Watch
Ten teams qualify to compete at the Olympic Games. The teams are selected based on their rankings at the past three world championships. The nations represented in Vancouver will be: Canada, Denmark, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.
Team Canada (see video): Their long winters have served the Canadian curlers well. The men’s team is the reigning Olympic champion while the Canadian women brought home bronze in 2006.
The men will be led by Kevin “The Old Bear” Martin, considered to be one of the greatest curlers of all time. The veteran of the men's team, despite being a four-time Canadian curling champion and two-time Olympian, has yet to win Olympic gold. Expect team Martin to be focused, polished, and prepared to win top honors.
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Curling is all about precision and strategy. Teams – 20 in all – will aim to earn the most points by sliding, or “throwing,” their stones down an ice runway toward a target of concentric circles. Within each game, teams play 10 rounds, throwing eight 42-pound stones each per round. At the end of the game, the team that has delivered the most stones to the center of the target wins.
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The preliminary rounds are round robin, each team playing every other team. The four top scoring teams advance to the semifinals.
While entirely unique in many respects, curling has a number of parallels with many popular target-based sports; think of it as a freezing-cold hybrid of golf, bowling, and pool. The 500-year-old sport demands precision, strategy, and accuracy. Players are expected to demonstrate good sportsmanship by calling their own fouls, not celebrating other teams’ errors, and conceding a match when a loss is imminent.
Developed by the Scots and perfected by Canadian farmers during their off-harvest seasons, curling was one of the original nine sports of the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924.
Sources: nbcolympics.com, vancouver2010.com, Oxford Encyclopedia of World Sports