It's a bit like shuffleboard, and a little like horseshoes. Competitors
liken it to chess. But it's on ice.
For certain, curling is bound to be one of the more curious sports at the
Olympics. The ancient game of stones and skips and curls is making its
Olympic debut after four times as a demonstration sport.
Curling, which has been around since the 16th century, is a team sport.
There are four players on each team (the lead, second, third and skip).
The game consists of spinning a 44-pound stone down a sheet of ice 146
feet long to a target that looks like a bulls-eye (the "house") some 13
feet wide with a "button" in the middle some 6 feet wide.
Each member of the team gets two throws. The object: Get your stones as
close to the center of the "button" as possible, while keeping your
opponent's stones out.
When all 16 stones are thrown, the closest one to the center -- and all
the others in scoring position closer than the closest stone of the
competitor -- count. Teams play 10 games like that (they're called
"ends") in a match.
When a skip (the team captain) releases the stone, sweepers brush the ice
in front of the stone, temporarily melting the ice and changing the
direction of the stone per the skip's shouted orders.
Strategy is everything. Placing stones to block an opponent, guard one of
your stones, knock a competitor's stone out of position or place one of
yours closer are all common move. As you might suspect, the last stone
often can be key.