Winter Olympics 2002 Winter Olympics 2002


A winning combination

Tiger Woods would give curling just the boost it needs

Posted: Tuesday February 12, 2002 1:29 AM

OGDEN, Utah -- Not that the Winter Olympics need my help. I've seen the ratings. People are watching the Games. But in my first full day on site, I figured out how to make the games bulletproof. Take the world's best-known athlete and the Winter Games' least-known event, mix and voila!

Three words: Tiger. Woods. Curling.

I covered the opening day of curling at the Ice Sheet here, also known as the Ice Sheet in back of the arena at Weber State. Curling, as you undoubtedly already knew, is the sport in which you take a 42-pound rock and glide it down a 146-foot-long, three-inch-thick sheet of ice toward the "house," which is a big bull's-eye at the other end. From there, think bocce. You knock your opponents' rocks out of the way and try to keep your own there. The name of the sport comes from the way the rock moves as it goes down the ice.

Curling takes touch, muscle memory and concentration. That sound like any sport you know of? Curling is what golfers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the entire nation of Canada play during standard time. A match lasts about 2 1/2 hours, and afterward everyone talks about the round over a beer. "Clubhouse atmosphere," says Mike Schneeberger, a member of the U.S. team that upset the defending world champion, Sweden, 10-5 in the opening round on Monday morning.

Curling and golf also share a home -- Scotland. To be more precise, the rocks used in curling all come from Ailsa, that big rock in the Firth of Forth, the one that towers over a golf course named Turnberry.

The Americans sealed the victory over Sweden when the "skip" of the team, Tim Somerville, secured a five-point swing on one shot. He slid his rock into another rock, which then knocked the Swedish rock out of the house. Instead of the Swedes getting one point and tying the match, the Americans collected four points and took a commanding 8-3 lead. Somerville's father, Bud, the coach of the U.S. team and, as we all know, a Curling Hall of Famer, was asked how difficult the shot was.

"A 30-foot putt?" the reporter said, searching for a comparison.

"More like holing a sand shot," Bud said, his eyes twinkling.

Woods can hole a sand shot. He could take that 42-pound rock and put backspin on it. He would bring a flair that curling could use. He would make curling a hotter ticket at the Winter Olympics than Barenaked Ladies. Finally a way to make Dick Ebersol and NBC show an event live. Not even Ebersol would tape-delay Tiger.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Ivan Maisel is in Utah covering the Olympics for the Sports Illustrated Olympic Daily and Check back regularly for more of his behind-the-scenes reports from Salt Lake City.

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