Understanding Curling

The Winter Games begin this week, and we look forward to becoming experts in such sports, as we do once very four years. Let’s see, there’s the skating events: figure skating, speed skating, and hockey. There’s all kinds of skiing and snowboarding events, and the sled races. Did I leave anything out? Oh yes, there’s that odd event that is played on the ice with no skates: curling.

Curling is some combination of bowling, bocce ball, billiards and chess — all on ice. Oh, and there's sweeping involved, too, so throw some basic housekeeping into that mix.

Tamara Keith of NPR went to a curling lesson at the Potomac Curling Club to learn something about the Olympic sport of curling, and lets us in on what she learned.

1. The ice isn't smooth, and the stones are quite specialized.

"It has a textured surface," White says about the ice, "and what we do is we spray water droplets on here to give it what we call a pebbled surface."

The pebbled surface helps the stones move on the ice. The stones are smooth and round, and squat like Saturn peaches, with handles on the top.

They're also quite specialized, according to instructor Joe Rockenbach: "The rocks are made of granite — a specific type of granite from Scotland. They weigh between 38 and 44 pounds."

2. The idea is to push the stone from one end of the ice to the other, aiming for the center of the "house," which looks like a bull's-eye.

"What do you think we call that? The button," says White. "Ever heard the term 'right on the button?' "

There’s a lot more to it, illustrated with animated gifs, at NPR. Take a short lesson, and you may find yourself following all the teams at the Olympics. The first rounds begin February 10th. -via mental_floss

(Image credit: Jim Tuttle/NPR)

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