The last time I played some serious competitive curling was back in Canada in 1977. Our schoolgirl team represented Base Borden Collegiate Institute (BBCI) from Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden, Ontario in the All Ontario School Girl Champion Playoffs. Back then, all we had to do was show up to play! Our coaches did all the paperwork and submitted our entry to the playoffs. Later, the local paper would run pictures and a column on how we did. The articles were clipped, placed in a scrapbook, and reminisced over years later.
At age 18, we practically lived at the curling club (dedicated ice) and had all the practice time we needed to keep up our skills. We graduated from straw brooms called Beaver Tails to the noisy, booming Rink-Rat brooms. The ice was perfect, not a hair of it was negative. Socialization was a must after every game. We kept our own scores. Rarely were umpires needed. The ice was always swept and pebbled between games. Wooden boards marked the boundaries between sheets of ice. Heavy, warm curling sweaters were the fashion statement back then. Sliders were made from Javex bleach bottles and glued to the bottom of your curling shoe. We wore jingle bells on our sliding foot for good luck! People smoked and drank on the ice during non-competitive play! Competition was intense, but so was comradery! Everything was much simpler back then!
Fast forward to 2015, Arena Nationals Curling Playoffs in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This writer is now a little older and wiser. I now skip a women’s team representing the Lone Star Curling Club out of Austin, Texas. What a change in scenery, climate, and curling itself. No longer the groomed dedicated ice of old, but arena ice! This adds a lot more variables to the competition. The uncomplicated game of curling has become electronically micro-managed. Numerous volunteers sit at laptops in the upper viewing deck of the Cedar Rapids Curling Club. Intelligent looking geeks continuously input data and statistics. This instantly notifies the world how all the arena teams are playing, in real time. This is done via the Computer Geek program. Anyone can access and observe virtual curling, again, in real time. Various umpires and volunteers converse with each other using blue tooth headsets and ear pieces. They all hold stop watches and clipboards. Games are now timed and pressure is on curlers to keep the event going at a good pace. We are constantly watching the clock to make sure we stay on time, and not waste a minute. At the conclusion of each game, the skips all “sign their lives away” on the statistics sheets kept by each game monitor.
The ice is super keen! Wonderful icemakers from USA Curling have been brought in to make perfect sheets for this event on an Olympic sized arena. It takes several days to layer demineralized water on top of new rings, 6 sheets in all, but only 5 were utilized in the competition. Large bumper pads separate the scoreboards at one end, the 6th sheet of ice, and the team break areas at the other end. Umpires manage the scoreboards and measure questionable rocks with precision measuring sticks. In between games, two USA Curling Association professional icemakers groom the sheets with the accuracy of an Ice King machine. Pebbling is next, the old fashioned way, sprinkling water on the sheets of ice while walking backwards. That technique has remained the same. If you are close enough and lucky, you can be baptized by the pebbler at no charge! Next comes a final fine scraping of the ice dusted with a lambskin wool to take off the pebble head. All new techniques in this 21st century.
Players wore all kinds of colorful team uniforms, shirts, kilts, and leggings. Nowadays, brooms are made of horsehair or the popular microfiber brush heads. Sadly, no noise emanates from them, they have become silent. I did catch a glimpse of an old straw broom used by a skip to deliver his rock! Ahh, the glory days! A newer broom, made in Canada, is starting to emerge. It is lightweight with a silicone brushing surface that does not attract any dirt and makes the rock go further! Must be careful not to slip on it while sweeping! Technology is wonderful!
Local television sports personalities, and internet media are covering the event. A cameraman has been designated to take pictures of all teams as well as action shots during the competition. I noticed no change in the intensity and focus of this curling event. We all had our “game faces” on! Pictures were then loaded onto the USA Curling Website Facebook Page for all the world to view! Amazing! Also set up for our viewing pleasure are the same pictures flashing on a computer screen in the venue. No sooner had one game’s pictures been taken, they were instantly downloaded for the many followers on Facebook.
Players snapped pictures with their cell phones and forwarded them to family and friends via text or Facebook. Text messages abounded keeping players and their teams informed. I never had so many text messages this past week between our team and club members! It was nice to have our “virtual coaches” from LSCC in Austin, encouraging us throughout the games. We had well-wishers all the way from Canada supporting us!
Our LSCC teams had sponsors who were very generous in donating shirts, jackets, and gear bags beautifully embroidered with their logo and our names. We were spoiled. A “Go Fund Me” account was established, and we made just over $200. This was split between the teams to assist with rental car expenses. LSCC teams had been blessed!
Available for purchase, a vendor produced unique t-shirts and pants with numerous iron-on logos for the Arena National Curling event. If we were in need of curling gear, another vendor had a trailer in the parking lot. Brooms, shoes, gloves, and broom heads were available. It was comforting to see several old customs surviving the years. Teams traded their club pins with their opposition after the game as a goodwill gesture. The second custom included “broom stacking” after the game, where the winners bought the losers a drink, and socialized with them after the game. And on Saturday evening, a fine banquet was dished out and enjoyed by all.
In the end, Cedar Rapids, Iowa reminded me of Ontario, Canada. The lay of the land was familiar as was the warmth, and hospitality of the people. The opening ceremonies was simple, with Miss Teen Cedar Rapid singing a beautiful rendition of the national anthem. Bagpipe music played over the speakers as we walked on the ice (a CD perhaps). I remember the days we had a real piper! He would be dressed in a dashing kilt that added excitement to our former tournament events. Some of the lasses wore kilts too. Ahh, those were the days!
All in all, the organization of the event was well done. The food terrific and so delicious. The side trip to Amana Colonies was a wonderful excursion. I am sure there will be more changes to the game of curling and we must adapt, but what continues to be steadfast is the joy, intensity, and satisfaction of playing and sharing a game so well loved by many.
The traditions of curling require having a cocktail with your teammates and opponents after a game. At the Lone Star Curling Club, we typically cross the street and go to our sponsor Cover 3. In the case of our Happy Hour league, we often have more than half of the curlers having some great food, conversation and maybe a cocktail or two.
Our team walked away from the closing ceremony at the Golden Gate Bonspiel with a medal. Normally you might think this would be a memory hard to top, but in actuallity I’m not sure it cracked the top 10. But maybe I should go back to the beginning of the story…
Having recruited Guy Davis, John Vesel, and my daughter Emily to the team, we set out the Thursday before Memorial Day to Shark’s Ice in Fremont, California for a weekend of fun and competition. I had developed a scratchy throat the night before, but my spirits were high and I was looking forward to the guaranteed four games. From a competitive standpoint Goal 1 was to play 5 games. Goal 2 was to play 6 games.
Draw One on Friday found us matched against Bone, a team from the San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club (SFBACC). The weekend started perfectly as we won our match, had Guy throw a great tie-breaking draw (5-3/4 inches), and made some friends with some great people from the opposing side (this would be a recurring theme). Later on Friday we were grounded by “Joe Smith!, Joe Smith!” (Wine Country), a game that showed us how much pressure a good team can really keep on you. “Joe Smith!, Joe Smith!” would go on to reach the semis in the A division.
Watching the commentary on the replay of our second game late Friday night, where they were struggling with pronouncing my last name, the commentators found the team name that I had missed — “Sharks With Glaesers”. Oh well.
Saturday morning things started getting a bit interesting. I woke up without a voice as my throat was getting worse, due in some part I’m sure to the extensive sweep calling from the day before. In any case Emily and I headed out to pick up Guy in San Jose and then John from the BART station in Fremont where he was coming in from San Francisco just as we had done the day before. But where Friday had been a regular work day, BART was using the long weekend to do some track maintenance and John’s route now included a bus jump from one station to another to bypass the in-progress work. The delay was so much that it threatened our ability to arrive in time, so the remainder of the team headed for the rink so as to avoid the forfeit. Upon arrival, I asked at the registration desk, in a cracking and often inaudible voice, if there might be a friendly local who could pick John up and bring him back for us. Two of the ladies immediately volunteered, and while Emily set up communication between the volunteer and John, I inquired about the rules for playing with three and having a fourth join. We could indeed start with three, and for John to join he would have to make it for the start of the second end, otherwise we would have to continue without him.
Having no control at this point over that emergency, we turned our attention to our other issue of the day — my laryngitis. After joking about me texting sweep instructions, we decided that if I could not be heard, I would clap if I wanted the brooms in action. I actually used this method a few times over the next few days, and it worked for us.
Now it was time to head down to the ice and, including our team, the total number of curlers there to throw the game was three. For the uninitiated, I will tell you this is fewer than you would normally expect for a curling match. As the other games were getting under way, one of the players from the other team, Yo Banana Boy (SFBACC), arrived. She said that the others were in a car and on their way. So there we waited, in a bit of an awkward position, not helped by the fact that I really couldn’t talk. Finally, the rest of YBB arrived, and their first rock was thrown about the time John arrived, just in time for our first throw. The game itelf was another lesson that decent shots were punished and that we would need to be really throwing sharp to compete. We were never in the game and rarely in an end.
Our pool play was done, and with a record of 1-2, we were placed in to the C division for the elimination phase of the bonspiel, and Guy’s great tie-breaking draw wasn’t needed after all.
Our opponent for the quarter-finals was Bisons on the Bay, a composite team from all over, but all originally from Winnipeg. The Bisons were easy to pick out in a crowd — they were the ones wearing the huge, furry bison hats with horns. Once again we were facing a team that kept placing shot after shot, but this time we upped our game. The ends were very interesting and competitive, and we pulled off several key shots to keep the Bisons from getting a big end when they had control of the house. Our good play had earned us only a 6 to 2 deficit entering the 7th, but unlike our last two games we had limited the damage.
In the 7th we were able to split the house and put some pressure on the Bisons, and they finally missed some takeouts. With the hammer, we had a shot for a double takeout on touching, but angled rocks. A nose hit and stick would give us four and tie the game. Unfortunately, my line was not right and Guy was a bit off the broom. Not to the side that corrected my line, the side that accentuated the error. The miss left us sitting one and headed to the 8th down three and without hammer.
By the time that the back end of the final end was to be played, the house had stones all over the front of the 12 foot, and guards covering practically every shot. Bisons had one rock at the top of the 8 foot on the left side, the shot rock with plenty of cover. We were sitting 2, 3, 4 in the 12 foot, but needed to get shot rock out. Our 7th stone was an attempt at a light takeout through a small gap, which barely caught the guard. Bisons quickly and effectively replaced the guard to an even better position, eliminating any chance for the takeout. A straight runback was also not an option, as we couldn’t risk sending a Bison rock in. The only play was a runback of our outside guard, angling it back in and getting a direct hit on the shot rock six feet away.
Now the miss in the 7th came back to help us. There was some fall on the sheet (well, not compared to our ice, but, you know, enough to notice), but the recent line miscalculation was based on the side of the sheet playing true with no need to worry about fall. A line was chosen, a shot was thrown, and vigorous sweeping was employed to keep the stone on line. As the red Bison stone was swept to the back of the house and the promoted yellow now sat on the inside of the 12 foot, nearly equidistant with its two brothers and joined by another at the outside of the ring, yellow sat four. It had only been moments before that in analyzing the shot to be attempted a Bison had said “Stranger things have happened.”
Now it was time for the hammer shot — equally difficult for them if they were to remain in the game. A hit and roll was chosen and delivered. Off target, but nicking a guard, the shooter rolled into the house with enough weight to get to the 8 foot. As it headed in it kissed shot rock and spun to the middle of the 12 foot to sit fourth. The game was 6-6 and a skip’s shot would determine who would advance.
Guy went first and threw a perfect rock, and with some sweeping on and off throughout the shot, ended up at the edge of the one foot, just under 6 inches from the button. So maybe that tie-breaking rock from the previous day was important after all? In any case, when the Bison rock came up short, we had secured our spot in the semis for Sunday morning.
At broomstacking, the Bisons could not have been more friendly and gracious. We knew from the game that were great guys and a lot of fun, and we had a great time with them after. John headed back to San Fran and the next thing I knew Ken and Tim from the Bisons had recruited Emily and Guy to join them for live stream announcing duties for the last 15 minutes of Draw 11, Draw 12, and the start of Draw 13. I, of course, was physically unable to perform any announcing duties. There may not have been a lot of key strategy commentary delivered on the games in play, but here is an UPDATE!!! for you: there was a lot of fun and frequent Bison references to having their “guts pulled out of their stomachs”. There may have also been some libations in the booth. (Draw 12 can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YL16q-VWchY)
On Sunday we cruised through the semis and had a short break before throwing in the finals. Again facing a tough team that didn’t seem to miss many shots, we played well (never gave up more than one in an end), but just couldn’t hit enough shots to pull it out, bowing out at 5-2 after seven ends.
It was great throwing six games and learning some “flattish ice” strategy as well as learning never to throw blue-handled rocks. It was alos a great confidence boost to play on ice that you could trust your shots on, it seemed to be easier to make shots as the weekend went on. It was awesome to take some Lone Star Curling Club pride to the west coast and show folks that we can curl a bit in Texas.
That gets us back to the award ceremonies, where we got our C runner-up medals. Great to be sure, but just a capper to a memorable weekend filled with curling, fun, pins, and new friends.
You can check out information on the bonspiel, results, and broadcasts at these locations:
Or feel free to ask Guy, John, Emily, or myself about the experience. We’d be glad to fill in some details, and will no doubt get you yearning to head to a bonspiel next season.
For those that have watched various national and international curling championships on TV, it should be readily obvious that sweeping is a major part of the game. If you pay close attention you can learn the many intricacies of sweeping and many tricks that elite teams employ to get every advantage that they can out of the sweepers.
Even for curlers at the club level, sweeping is still very important. Aside from the obvious function of clearing debris from the path of the rock, the sweepers are able to affect the trajectory of the rock after it has been released by the thrower. In theory, the sweepers can start sweeping as soon as they want, even before the rock has been released. In practice, however, the sweepers usually begin their job at the hog line.
Many times you will see the skip or the thrower join in the action for various reasons. This is not normally encouraged because the effectiveness of a third sweeper is fairly minimal since they are far away from the rock. Unless there is only one sweeper, the skip should always stay in the house and let the two regular sweepers handle the rock. This is because the skip needs to be watching the line and giving sweepers commands.
The sweepers may sweep the rock for most of the length of the sheet. While the rock is in motion, the sweepers are responsible for judging the speed of the rock. If it is heavy or just right then no sweeping is necessary, but if it is light, the sweepers should just start sweeping; no command is necessary from the skip. In fact, for an experienced team, the skip expects the sweepers to judge every rock like this, while he concentrates on the line and whether the rock is curling too much or not enough. Sweepers will also communicate with their skip to let him know the speed of the rock and where they expect it to end up as it travels down the ice. This is perhaps one of the most advanced functions of the sweepers at the club level and a skill that takes a great deal of practice to get right.
Once the rock crosses the tee line, the throwing team may have only one sweeper sweeping. At this point one sweeper, normally the skip, can sweep an opponent’s rock that is in motion. Each team may, in fact, have a player sweeping the same rock. If multiple rocks are in motion beyond the tee line, each team may again have only one player sweeping, so that player must decide which rock to sweep. Though mix ups sometimes occur, at no time may the sweepers from opposing teams intentionally interfere with each other.
Perhaps the least understood aspect of sweeping is what happens when a rock is burned. If a rock is burned between the hog lines, the practice is for the offending player to declare the infraction and pull the rock off immediately. Once the rock crosses the hog line, the play should be allowed to continue if the burn does not significantly alter the path of the rock. The offending player should still declare the infraction and then it is up to the skip of the non-offending team to decide if they want to play the rocks where they lie or pull the burned rock out of play and replace any moved stones. In the third case, if a rock is burned after the thrown rock hits another rock then they play should be allowed to continue and once it is over, the non-offending team’s skip will decide where any affected rocks would have ended up if the infraction had not taken place.
February 8th, the Lone Star Curling Club held a “Learn to Curl”. 62 excited Austinites signed up and attended this two hour training session either because they had heard about Austin curling from a friend, or watched the Olympics and got interested in curling. Many said they were surprised to hear that there was a curling club in Austin, Texas.
The curling club uses the Chaparral ice rink located in Northcross Mall (Anderson Lane) and the club/league plays most Sunday mornings. Several times a year “learn to curl” events are held for interested people to try their hand at curling. A lot of the participants have no idea what they are getting into, and some have even said they thought it was the lazy person’s sport, so they figured it would be easy. All are surprised once they get on the ice.
As a side note, it never fails to amaze me how many people show up without gloves and/or warm clothes. You are on ice. Best thing is to wear layers of clothes (long sleeved t- shirt, sweatshirt, and jacket). If you get too warm from “sweeping” you can peel off a layer. At one curling session, a woman showed up wearing platform/wedge shoes. Again, you are on the ice – you need flat, rubber soled shoes (tennis shoes or flat bottom shoes).
A typical “learn to curl” starts off the ice. Participants watch a short video and hear about the basic skills that are needed. All participants are given a broom to use, and then they step onto the ice which holds the stones and sliders. Everyone is put into groups with an experienced curler teaching them the skills.
People of all ages come to curl. Families come for an experience. It seems that everyone is intimidated at first. Learning how to “throw” the stone (you never pick it up) comes first. To help you slide on the ice, you are given a “slider” to wear on the gliding foot (the other leg and foot trail out behind you). A slider is very slick, so balance is key. As is taking off the slider after you throw and before you stand up.
It takes a while to learn to balance while sliding your body and the rock forward. Almost everyone looks silly as they learn the correct body positioning and a few people flail and slide their whole body down the ice. While that does not literally break the ice, it does break the tension and team mates begin to relax. Repetition and practice are the keys to getting the feel for throwing the stone.
Another fun skill is sweeping. Participants are always shocked how much energy it takes and how fast you have to hustle. Sweeping and keeping up with the fast moving rock is usually a new activity and it takes balance and agility.
Curling is a fun way to meet other people, encourage others, and learn a new sport. There is lots of laughter and lots of yelling. Not bad or mean spirited yelling, but directional yelling. The “skip” will yell to direct the sweepers whether to sweep or not. In an ice rink with 8 or more people yelling at the same time, it can get loud.
A “learn to curl” is an introductory session aimed at educating and letting you get some practice. Many people have so much fun that they sign up for the league. For others it is bragging rights. But all agree, “Curling Rocks”.
If you want to get notified of future “learn to curls”, sign-up for email notification when we schedule another one.
Tania Ortega of Fox 7 joined us Thursday January 15th morning for 3 live spots. Big thanks to Chaparral Ice in giving us the ice time to help promote the game of curling! Thanks to Buck, Pat and everyone else who came out and showed Austin and Tania how to curl!
During the 1st live spot Tania, discussed our club and curling with Buck.
During the 2nd live spot Tania, was shown how to take a few shots with the help of Pat. This spot is up on the Fox 7 Austin site.
During the final live spot Tania was shown how to sweep with the help of Buck.
After curling had great ratings (again) in the Olympics in 2014, the momentum continues with two recent stories:
Watch the top level curlers and keep more curling events on TV!
As fall is now approaching here in Austin, we arebeginning to think of cooler weather and shorter days ahead. One sure sign that summer is ending is the start of the Lone Star Curling Club’s fall schedule this Sunday, September 7th. While many people may have taken some time off this summer, the curling club remained active with two successful mini leagues. The first was held on Friday nights in July (with the final game in early August). The second league was held on Sunday mornings throughout August.
While summer is certainly not the usual season for curling, everyone involved had a lot of fun. For one team, there was even the excitement of scoring an 8 ender. It is a rare and elusive feat, but when it happens, it is always exciting. The 8 ender is named for the maximum number of points that can be scored in a single end.
What does it take to score 8 points in a single end? Certainly a lot of luck – both good luck for the team that scores, and bad luck for the team that finds itself on the short end of the stick. All eight of the team’s rocks must find their way into the house and every opponent’s attempt to remove those rocks or to draw one closer to the button than any of the eight must fail. In similar sporting terms, the 8 ender is possibly equivalent to a pitcher throwing a no hitter in baseball. Only a few perfect ends are scored in clubs across the country each year.
On July 25th, as the evening fell on a day where the thermometer neared 100 degrees, most people in Austin were probably not thinking about ice, though if they were, it probably involved the ice in a cold drink. For the 40 curling enthusiasts that took to the ice that night to escape the summer heat, nothing seemed to indicate that something special would happen that night. As the curling sheets were prepared for the evening’s games, it became apparent that the playing conditions would be difficult that night. It was taking longer than expected for the water put down by the Zamboni to freeze. When the games began, it meant that many teams struggled to throw their rocks the full length of the ice.
After a few ends, the ice conditions improved somewhat, making it easier to get the rocks over the hog line. At this moment, lightning struck, and the team of skip Kevin Butler, third Austin Bush, second Austin Lawless and lead Tyler Humes had their moment of brilliance. In the fourth end, playing without the hammer, with the help of a little luck and a well executed takeout, they scored their 8 ender. This foursome joined the club following the Olympic Learn To Curl and played their first ever games during the April mini league. After only a handful of games, they were able to achieve something that most curlers never experience in a lifetime of curling.
The end started out innocently enough. By the time several rocks had been thrown, the players started to notice that the Bush team had all their rocks in the house. As rocks accumulated in the house, players on nearby sheets started to take notice of what was happening. The tension and the drama begin to mount. Could the team get their next draw attempt into the house? Will their opponents finally make a takeout to remove a rock from play? When an opponent’s stone strayed into the rings, it was taken out with an incredible shot that preserved the perfect end.
Finally, the skip settled down in the hack to throw his last shot. With the tension building, he needed to put his rock in the house to keep the chance for an 8 ender alive. He made no mistake with his draw to lie 8, but the team had to wait as the opponents made one last attempt to ruin the end. After one last futile attempt, the end was over and the Bush team erupted with loud cheers. The game was paused for a photo op to preserve the moment for posterity.
This is the first 8 ender recorded in competition at the Lone Star Curling Club.
- Doing the accreditation for the President of the World Curling Federation without knowing who she was…and being embarrassed afterwards when I found out. She was just lovely BTW and that Scottish accent was awesome.
- Meeting my personal hero Dick Fosbury (of the famous Fosbury Flop) who was awesome!
- Watching the entry of the athletes where they were being led in by showgirls, burlesque dancers and male strippers (I liked that and the boys from Thunder From Down Under were just wonderful, one of whom is going to take up curling)
- Meeting members of the Scottish, American, Swedish, Norwegian, Japanese and Canadian teams who, for the most part, were incredibly gracious. The Japanese junior women’s team impressed me the most as they played very tactical games that usually ended in ties.
- Learning lots about sweeping and strategy – which was easy when you were literally on the ice doing security and also getting to spend 30 minutes with the vice from the Swedish Women’s team who is considered one of the best in the world.
- Being able to actually throw on real ice which was a surreal experience – I felt like a swan gliding along as I kept going and going and going….
- Marching the athletes through a full casino being led by pipers to the opening ceremony
- Meeting some incredibly nice people who are now great friends and have extended invitations to come up to the north to do some curling.
- Reducing the entire merch area to hysterics when asked how to tell the difference between dark blue and black hoodies and telling the woman asking “..trust me hon, I’m gay and we know color”
- After apologizing numerous times for a screw up in merch being told “..would you stop being such a damn Canadian and quit apologizing?” to which I responded “I’m sorry”. The person stomped off muttering “..God damn people from the Maritimes”
- Being able to watch curling while on break with other volunteers and actually able to intelligently discuss the numerous faults of a certain men’s team from a North American country with a very opinionated skip from the Yukon.
- And last but not least, making Pat Popovich incredibly jealous with numerous texts of what was going on.
Randy “Melvis” Sabbagh
With about two thirds of the round robin games now complete in Sochi, the Olympic curling tournament has had some surprises. On the men’s side, the performance of the Chinese team has been impressive. They are currently tied with Sweden at the top with a 6 win, 1 loss record. This was not expected, and their shot percentage is a very solid 85%. The performance of the Canadian rink has also been a surprise, with a slow start, losing two of their first three games. However, they have since caught fire, winning their next 4 straight games.
On the women’s side, Jennifer Jones’ Canadian rink is undefeated through 7 games. The rest of the field has been quite competitive. My choice for the surprising women’s rink has been Great Britain. I expected them to be more dominant, but they are now in a close fight for a playoff spot with three losses. Their skip, Eve Muirhead, the defending world champion, has had games where her shot making has looked very ordinary. At times, she has seemed flustered, unable to decide on the best shot to call.
The major disappointment has to be the poor performance of both American rinks. Erika Brown’s team has only 1 win, and sits at the bottom of the standings. John Shuster’s rink has 2 wins so far, and still has a mathematical chance of making the playoffs but can probably only play the role of a spoiler.
It is hard to identify the exact cause. The major problem has been low shot making percentages. At this level of competition, a rink needs to average well above 80% to be a playoff contender. Both rinks started slow, with 50% shots in some games. Lately, both rinks have had better games, and their shooting percentages have increased into the 70s.
Unfortunately, one of the memorable events of the past week was when the US women’s team gave up a 7 ender to Great Britain. As I watched the end develop, I question how they let the end get away. Great Britain had some breaks, as every one of their takeouts seemed to roll behind three American rocks in front of the house.
When an end starts going bad, at some point, you have to decide when to bail out and start to take out your opponent’s rocks. A couple of key misses, and then Erika Brown’s decision to attempt draw shots all add to the problem. My strategy would have been, with 3 US rocks close to the house, to call run back takeouts. Even if they did not take out the Scottish rocks, it would have removed the cover from the house. As some of you may have heard, this was the first 7 ender in Olympic curling history.
The poor performance does not bode well for funding for Olympic Curling in the US. After the 2010 Olympics, curling was noted as a sport to reduce funding from the US Olympic Committee. Given this year’s outcomes, there will be lots of soul searching within the US Curling Association. It is ironic that while the growth of curling has been dramatic at the local clubs, the US is far less competitive at the international level.
On a brighter note, the Norway rink’s bright curling pants have been a big fashion hit again this Olympics. Their new designs have been very creative. The Russian men appear to be following along with the pink colored paisley pants with white belts.
I have been impressed with the wide variety of television camera angles for the games. There are fixed cameras behind each sheet, overhead house cameras, and mobile cameras along the sides of the sheets. There is also a camera on a boom that provides some fascinating above sheet views. The perspective helps to being out the line of the shots and how straight these curlers slide toward the broom.
I have not seen this yet on NBC television, but the CBC ( Canada ) coverage has shown a graphic that marks the path of a draw shot. It looks to use the same technology as the first down line in football games. When the paths of two draw shots are compared, it provides a fascinating view of how the draws compared. I hope this becomes a staple of curling coverage.
Overall, I have been impressed with the curling coverage provided by NBC. Every US game, as well as some other games have been televised. However, the color commentators need some work.
Both studio and on ice color people have been very bland, with very few insights. They need to tell the audience what happened, and tell us if the ice was wrong or if the shooter missed the broom. By continuing to say the rock “over curled” tells us little as to the cause of a missed shot.
Part of the problem may be that NBC has people who are friends or teammates of the players, and are reluctant to appear critical. They need color commentators who are well spoken and not afraid to voice an opinion. Pete Fenson has extensive Olympic curling experience, but he is not a broadcaster.
Overall, it has been an exciting Olympic curling experience so far, and the playoffs should feature some excellent games. The semi-finals are on Feb. 19, with the women medal games on Feb. 20, and the men’s medal games on Feb. 21.
- Women: Canada versus Sweden, with Canada taking the Gold
- Men: Sweden versus Canada, with Sweden winning the gold medal.