The Curling reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Curling

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Curling is a precision sport similar to bowls or bocce, but played on ice with polished heavy stones rather than plastic balls. The game is generally believed to have been invented in 16th century Scotland, although two paintings by Pieter Brueghel the Elder depict Dutch peasants curling. Whatever the truth of the matter, outdoor curling was very popular in Scotland between the 16th and the 19th centuries when the climate was cold enough to ensure good ice conditions every winter and as a result the international governing body for curling, the World Curling Federation, is based in Perth, Scotland. Curling has been an official sport in the Winter Olympics since the 1998 Winter Olympic Games.

The game is currently most firmly established, however, in Canada. The Royal Montreal Curling Club, the first sporting club of any kind in North America, was established in 1807. The first curling club in the United States began in 1832, and the game was introduced to Switzerland and Sweden before the end of the nineteenth century.

Table of contents
1 Playing surface
2 Curling stone
3 The players
4 The game
5 Curling culture
6 See also
7 Famous current curlers/teams:
8 Famous curlers of the past

Playing surface

The curling arena is a sheet of ice 146 feet by 14 feet 2 inches (45.5 by 4.3 m) wide, carefully prepared to be absolutely level and to allow the "rocks", as the polished granite 20 kg stones are called, to glide with as little friction as possible. A key part of the preparation is the spraying of fine water droplets on the ice to create what is called pebble. The pebble helps rocks slide faster, and the curling action of rocks changes during a game as the pebble evens out from wear.

On the rink, a 12 foot (3.7 m) wide set of concentric rings, called the house, is painted near each end of the rink. The centre of the house, marked by the junction of two lines which divide the house into quarters, is known as the button or tee. The two lines are the centre line, which is drawn lengthwise down the centre of the sheet, and the tee line, drawn 16 feet (4.9 m) from the backboard and parallel to it. Two other lines, the hoglines, are drawn parallel to each backboard and 37 feet (11.3 m) from it.

The rings which surround the button are defined by their diameter as the four-foot, eight-foot, and twelve-foot rings. They are usually distinguished by colour.

Twelve feet behind the junction of the centre and tee lines, the centre line is crossed at right angles by the hack line. The hack is a device used to provide traction to the curler making a shot; the curler places the foot he or she will push off with in the hack. On indoor rinks there are usually two fixed hacks, rubber-lined holes, one each side of the centre line with the inside edge no more than three inches from the centre line and the front edge on the hack line. A single moveable hack may also be used.

Graphical depiction of a curling rink
Graphical depiction of a curling rink.

Curling stone

The curling stone or rock used in the game weighs approximately 45 lb (20 kg) and has a special feature on the bottom. The bottom of the rock is not flat, but concave and the actual running surface of the rock is only 1/4 to 1/2 inch (6 to 12 mm) wide on the rim of the concave bottom. This small running surface allows the pebble applied to the ice to have an effect on the action of the rock. The rock is rotated as it is released. If the handle is rotated away from the body the shot is said to be an out-turn, and if rotated across the body it is an in-turn. On properly prepared ice the rock will move laterally in the direction it is turning, especially toward the end of its trip. The degree of curl depends on several factors, including the preparation of the ice and the flattening of common paths to the house during the game. Ice on which the rocks curl well is said to be swingy.

The Scots in particular believe that the best quality curling stones are made from a specific type of granite called "Ailsite", found on the Ailsa Craig, an island off the Ayrshire coast.

The players

Curling is a team game, played between two teams of four curlers each. The team members are named according to the order in which they throw in each end. The lead for each team throws first, followed by the second, third (vice skip or vice), and the skip who is the team captain; this order is not mandatory and some prominent teams (for example, Randy Ferbey's) reverse the order in which the skip and third throw. While the first three players throw their rocks, the skip remains at the far end of the ice to guide the players; while the skip is throwing, the vice takes this role. Thus, each time a rock is thrown, there is one player throwing the rock, and another player at the far end. The two remaining players follow the rock and assist in guiding its trajectory by sweeping the ice before the rock, usually under direction from the skip.

The game

Curling is played between two teams of four curlers. A game usually consists of ten ends. In each end each player on each team casts two rocks in turn, the players on each side alternating shots. When throwing the rock, it must be released in the middle of the sheet before the near hogline is reached (players usually slide while releasing their shots) and must cross the far hogline; otherwise it is removed from play. On each shot, two players are equipped with brushes or brooms with which they can vigorously sweep the ice in front of the rock so as to alter its trajectory or increase the distance of travel. A player in the house, either the skip (captain) or vice-skip (also known as the third), has the final say in deciding whether the sweepers should sweep.

Four-rock rule

Until four rocks have been played, guard rocks left in the area between the hog and tee lines, excluding the house -- known as the free guard zone -- may not be removed by an opponent's stone. If they are removed, they are replaced and the opponent's rock is removed from play. This rule is known as the four-rock rule.

Scoring

After both teams have delivered eight rocks each, the team with the rock closest to the button is awarded one point for each rock that is closer than the opponent's closest. The winner is the team with the highest score after ten ends.

Last rock

The team with the last rock, or the hammer for the first end of the game is decided by coin toss or other similar method. In all subsequent ends, the hammer belongs to the team that did not score in the preceding end. In the event that neither team scores, the hammer remains with the same team. Naturally, it is easier to score points with the hammer than without; in tournament play, the team with the hammer generally tries to score two or more points. If only one point is possible, the skip will often try to avoid scoring at all in order to retain the hammer until the next end, when two or more points may be possible. This is often called a blank end. Scoring without the hammer is commonly referred to as stealing, or a steal, and is much more difficult.

Dispute resolution

Most decisions about rules are left to the skips. In tournament play the most frequent circumstance in which a decision has to be made by someone other than the skips is the failure of the skips to agree on which rock is closest to the button. An independent official then measures the distances.

Curling culture

Curling is most popular in Canada, but is played in other countries including the United States, Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and even Japan, all of which, with other countries, compete in the world championships. Improvements in ice making and changes in the rules to increase scoring and promote complex strategy have increased the already high popularity of the sport in Canada, and large television audiences watch frequent curling telecasts, especially the Tournament of Hearts (the national championship for women), the Brier (the national championship for men), and the women's and men's world championships. The Tournament of Hearts and the Brier are contested by provincial and territorial champions, and the world championships by national champions.

The first world curling championship in the sport was limited to men and was known as the "Scotch Cup" held in Falkirk and Edinburgh, Scotland. The first ever world title was won by the Canadian team from Regina, Saskatchewan skipped by Ernie Richardson.

While Canadian bonspiels (tournaments) offer cash prizes, there are no full-time professional curlers. Curling survives as a people's sport, making its Winter Olympic Games debut in 1998 with men's and women's tournaments.

Curling is the provincial sport of Saskatchewan, home of one of the most famous curlers, the late Sandra Schmirler who led her team to the first ever Gold Medal in the 1998 Winter Olympics.

Curling probably does not take its name from the motion of the stones. In the early history of curling, the rocks were simply flat bottomed river stones that where sometimes notched or shaped. The user would have had little control of a rock and luck had more to do with a good shot then the motion of the stone. The origins of the word "curling" are not known. It was first used in print in 1630 in Perth, Scotland. One possible derivation is that it came from the old verb "curr" which describes a low rumble, a sound that is strongly associated with the game (curling is often called the roaring game). Nevertheless, today a rock which deviates from a straight line is said to curl.

See also

Famous current curlers/teams:

Famous curlers of the past


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