CHARLESTON, Sc. (WSAV) – Some refer to curling as ice bocce or ice chess; not many people have played it competitively, most try it at home getting the kids to clean with a Swiffer or women whipping out the Roomba, but when it comes to the Olympic sport of curling, there’s a lot more to it than you may think.
“There’s so much involved,” said Amanda Smith, president of Charleston’s curling club, “There’s strategy, there’s the athleticism, it’s not something where I look like I’m going to fall and break my neck you know like figure skating so, it looks like something I can actually do,” she laughed.
There are two parts to curling: sweeping and throwing.
“Okay so you squat down, push them forward, yeah just a bit. And then you slide that forward and push off,” Smith instructed.
When throwing, they call it “PUBS”.
“Push up back slide,” Smith said, “You get into the hack, you crouch down, and usually the stones will get a little bit stuck to the surface so you just want to push them forward,” she continued, “Lift your butt up, and then you pull the foot back…” and push off.
“Be the rock, be the rock!” Smith said.
It may look simple, but there’s a lot of skill in just one motion: pushing off as hard as you can, sliding on one foot, keeping weight off the 42 lbs. Block all while balancing your body.
“And let go, yes, perfect!” Smith said as Olmos let go and fell over…
Once you manage to stay up, “Turn your handle so that it faces his hand,” Smith said.
The thrower has to turn the block handle towards the direction their teammate is at the other end is pointing to… and remembering to release it, lightly, when they’re at their maximum speed.
On a team of four, “You have the lead, the second, the vice, and the skip. The skip is like the captain, they call the strategy, they hold the broom at the other end,” Smith said.
Everyone sweeps except the skip, so if you’re not throwing, you’re sweeping.
“Sweeping is done to either make the stone go further or straighter,” explained Smith.
The synthetic broom warms up the ice; the faster you sweep, the easier the block slides.
That’s where the term “curling” comes from, as you release the block in a certain direction, it curls in the direction you want it to go.
“If it’s curling enough then you leave it alone,” Smith said, “If it’s curling too much, you might sweep really, really hard to keep it straight.”
The goal is to get your stones to the center of the bullseye, or what they call “the house.”
“You try to get your stones closer to the center of the bull’s-eye, then your opponents next nearest stone. And every one of those stones is worth one point,” Smith said, sweeping as far as 150 feet, the length of about half a football field.
“The key is not to hit the stone because that’s called burning the stone and then you have to take the stone out of play,” she said.
“Hard Hard Hard! Hard!” Smith and her husband yelled as they went down the ice.
So what’s with all the yelling?
“Hard, hurry hard, yes… all of that means sweep,” Smith explained, “And then they’ll tell you woah, no, or off if they want you to stop sweeping. And it all depends on and it all depends on the team, they have preferences for which sound they like to hear.”
The tradition at the end is good curling,” Smith said as she shook Olmos’ hand, “Good curling.”
“I think particularly with curling, everybody says, ‘Oh I could be in the Olympics,’ but once you get out and you start playing and you realize how good people are and how much skill it takes..
the Olympics dreams fade,” Smith said, “But it was nice to see that one of the Olympians right now is my same age and so maybe that reignited the Olympic dream.”