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The Sport of Curling

At the Winter Olympics and Here in the Philadelphia Area

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The Sport of Curling

Team Johnson at the 2005 Women's World Curling Championships in Paisley, Scotland

I enjoy watching the Winter Olympics much more than the Summer Olympics. Part of the reason, I admit, is that it gives me the chance to see athletes do things that I could only dream about. I can't skate and I can't ski, so the only way I can experience sports involving those talents is to watch the best in the world compete against each other.

There is, however, one winter sport that I'd really like to try. I even woke up at 3:00 a.m. this morning to watch the U.S. women compete against the Canadian women in this sport. What is it? Curling.

What is Curling?

I know. I know. Most of you probably have never seen a bonspiel. A what? A bonspiel is a curling tournament, traditionally held outdoors on a frozen freshwater loch. That sentence gives you a clue about the origin of curling. A loch is a lake found in Scotland and that's where curling first started back in the 16th century. Today curling is rarely played outside, but rather on indoor rink. The rules used today date back to the middle of the 19th century,

On the surface, curling seems to be pretty simple to learn which makes it an easy sport to watch on TV since you can learn the basics pretty quickly.

The Game

A game is played between two teams of four players on a designated area of the rink called a sheet. The sheet is 138 feet long by approximately 14 feet wide. Each team gets eight granite stones which weigh 42 pound apiece. Each stone has a handle bolted into it.

A game is divided into 10 innings called ends. The object of the game is to have the most stones inside a target area with none of your opponents stones inside your stones. Only one team scores in each end and the team that scores receives a point for each stone within the target area and inside the closest stone of the opponent. The stones are delivered from the opposite end of the sheet somewhat like a bowling ball.

Strategy

Curling reminds you a lot of bocce or shuffleboard which most of us have played at the South Jersey shore or on a cruise. It involves a lot of strategy which is why some folks refer to it as "chess on ice."

U.S. Curling at the Olympics

The U.S. Women's curling team is led by sisters Cassie and Jamie Johnson from Bemidji, Minnesota. Team Johnson came in second at the 2005 Women's World Curling Championships in Paisley, Scotland.

Team Johnson's Olympic dream has had a rough start with consecutive losses to the more experienced teams from Norway and Canada. The Olympic bonspiel consists of a round robin between the 10 teams with 4 teams advancing to the semifinals next week.

Pete Fenson's U.S. Men's team began with a victory over Norway and a loss to Finland.

Philadelphia Curling Club

While in the United States curling is most popular in the upper mid-west and Great Lakes states, you can find curling clubs elsewhere in the country. In fact, we have a curling club right here in the Philadelphia area.

The Philadelphia Curling Club is located at 65 Plank Road in Paoli, Pennsylvania. The club was established in 1957 as a member based non-profit organization and is the only curling facility in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The club accepts new members year round, however, twice a year they have an open house where those interested can come to the club, watch and learn more about curling and even give the sport a try.

Open House February 25, 2006

The club's next open house is on Saturday February 25, 2006 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. You can stop by anytime during the day and stay for as long as you like.

If you find that you want to learn even more about curling, the club has a four week curling class that begins on March 2 and will run on consecutive Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Not Limited by Age

One of the really nice things about curling is that it's not a sport that's limited by age. While most of the Olympians that you'll see in Torino are relatively young, the oldest member of the U.S. Olympic Team is actually one of the members of the men's curling team, alternate Scott Baird age 55 from Bemidji, Minnesota.

Olympic Schedule

There are three curling sessions daily at the Olympics all of which are being covered by the USA Network at 3:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m. and on CNBC at 5:00 p.m. EST. The 5:00 p.m. broadcast is on tape delay.

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