What the Heck Is Curling—And What’s With All the Yelling?

If you’ve come across a curling match on TV, it might make you ask, what is curling—and what’s going on with all that ice brushing and yelling?Curling can be considered more of a “slow” sport, especially when compared to other Winter Games events, which involve speed, flips, leaps, tumbles, and catching a whole lot of air. But what curling lacks in dazzling feats, it makes up for with skill and suspense. Still, to the untrained eye, spotting the action isn’t always obvious. That’s one reason you may hear people poke fun at the sport, joking that the furious ice sweeping looks more like house cleaning than an athletic event.But curling deserves respect: After all, with origins in the 16th century, it’s one of the oldest team sports in the world. And once you learn more about the sport, including why it’s called curling, how the sport is won, and what the players are really yelling about, you’ll realize this game can be chock-full of excitement too. For everything you need to know about curling at the 2022 Winter Games, read on.What is curling?Curling is a team sport—made up of four players on each single-gendered team, or teams of two in mixed doubles—that takes place on ice. Players are equipped with their own brush as well as special dual-soled shoes, which allow them to either slide on the ice or grip the ice.The goal of curling is to slide 44-pound granite stones toward a target, known as a house, in the center of the ice. To help the granite stones get to their target, players on the team are allowed to start sweeping the ice after it’s thrown. This helps clear away debris that can slow the stone down or mess with its path; sweeping also slightly melts the ice which makes the stone move faster.According to the Smithsonian, curling gets its name from how the stone turns (or curls) at the end of its path on the ice.How do you win at curling?Curling is typically played over 10 ends or rounds. In four-person curling, each team takes turns throwing eight stones each round. The teams alternate throws, and 16 stones total are thrown each round. The lead throws the first two rocks, the second throws the second two rocks, the third throws the third two, and the skip, or the captain, throws the last two.According to the World Curling Federation, a team scores one point for each of its stones that are located in or touch the house that are closer to the center of the target than any stone of the opposite team. If no team’s stones touch the house upon the conclusion of each end, then no points are scored.A lot of the strategy—and subsequent suspense we mentioned earlier—in curling comes with shot selection. For example, a draw shot is the basic scoring shot, which is designed to stop in the house or directly in front of it, NBC Sports explains. Teams can also throw a guard shot, designed to prevent an opponent from getting their stone in the house; a raise, which moves a stone into another position; or a takeout, which bumps out another stone from play. The last shot of the round is called the hammer, and the team that has the hammer has the scoring advantage—they can be more aggressive, and often try to score more than one point. (A coin toss determines which team delivers the first stone in the first end; following that, the team that doesn’t score in the prior end gets the hammer. Because a hammer is so advantageous, some teams choose to give up a point during an end so they’ll get the hammer at the next end—just another example of the importance of strategy in the sport.)

If you’ve come across a curling match on TV, it might make you ask, what is curling—and what’s going on with all that ice brushing and yelling?

Curling can be considered more of a “slow” sport, especially when compared to other Winter Games events, which involve speed, flips, leaps, tumbles, and catching a whole lot of air. But what curling lacks in dazzling feats, it makes up for with skill and suspense. Still, to the untrained eye, spotting the action isn’t always obvious. That’s one reason you may hear people poke fun at the sport, joking that the furious ice sweeping looks more like house cleaning than an athletic event.

But curling deserves respect: After all, with origins in the 16th century, it’s one of the oldest team sports in the world. And once you learn more about the sport, including why it’s called curling, how the sport is won, and what the players are really yelling about, you’ll realize this game can be chock-full of excitement too. For everything you need to know about curling at the 2022 Winter Games, read on.

What is curling?

Curling is a team sport—made up of four players on each single-gendered team, or teams of two in mixed doubles—that takes place on ice. Players are equipped with their own brush as well as special dual-soled shoes, which allow them to either slide on the ice or grip the ice.

The goal of curling is to slide 44-pound granite stones toward a target, known as a house, in the center of the ice. To help the granite stones get to their target, players on the team are allowed to start sweeping the ice after it’s thrown. This helps clear away debris that can slow the stone down or mess with its path; sweeping also slightly melts the ice which makes the stone move faster.

According to the Smithsonian, curling gets its name from how the stone turns (or curls) at the end of its path on the ice.

How do you win at curling?

Curling is typically played over 10 ends or rounds. In four-person curling, each team takes turns throwing eight stones each round. The teams alternate throws, and 16 stones total are thrown each round. The lead throws the first two rocks, the second throws the second two rocks, the third throws the third two, and the skip, or the captain, throws the last two.

According to the World Curling Federation, a team scores one point for each of its stones that are located in or touch the house that are closer to the center of the target than any stone of the opposite team. If no team’s stones touch the house upon the conclusion of each end, then no points are scored.

A lot of the strategy—and subsequent suspense we mentioned earlier—in curling comes with shot selection. For example, a draw shot is the basic scoring shot, which is designed to stop in the house or directly in front of it, NBC Sports explains. Teams can also throw a guard shot, designed to prevent an opponent from getting their stone in the house; a raise, which moves a stone into another position; or a takeout, which bumps out another stone from play. The last shot of the round is called the hammer, and the team that has the hammer has the scoring advantage—they can be more aggressive, and often try to score more than one point. (A coin toss determines which team delivers the first stone in the first end; following that, the team that doesn’t score in the prior end gets the hammer. Because a hammer is so advantageous, some teams choose to give up a point during an end so they’ll get the hammer at the next end—just another example of the importance of strategy in the sport.)

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