Friday, January 31, 2014

Curling Rocks

Lest we start to think that every one of my hobbies involves me sitting on my arse and lifting nothing more strenuous than a can of spray paint, let me share this recent passion with you: curling.

Yes, curling. You know, that funny sport where they throw rocks and sweep ice with a broom. Well, I'm here to say it's not as easy as it looks! Apart from the fact one simply has to maintain balance on a surface not conducive to said activity, it's quite a workout. Basically a combination of squats and lunges, with the sweeping working your arms. Never a dull moment.

That's me and my daughters with USA Olympic curler Debbie McCormick.
It's something that really caught my attention at Vancouver Olympic Games, and something I've been wanting to try ever since. As it happens, one of just a handful of curling facilities in Michigan is located about 4 miles from my house. So I rounded up some guys from work, and we signed up for a training session last fall. That ended a couple weeks ago, and I have since been picked up by a regular Wednesday league team. It's really a lot of fun. And any activity that traditionally ends with beer consumption can't be all bad, right?

So, on a somewhat related note, my day job is as a marketing copywriter. And as it happens, one of our clients is hosting customers in a la-te-da affair in Sochi, and wanted some writeups on the various sports. I drew curling, of course! So a glimpse into the day gig is posted here for whatever it is worth:

Curling Rocks the House in Sochi

Surprisingly for a sport played on ice, it took a long time for curling to become a fixture at the Winter Games. While part of the first Games in 1924, it did not make a complete return as a medal sport until 1998. Its popularity grew rapidly at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, setting the stage for an exciting competition in Sochi.

                        Curling is a game of strategy, sometimes known as “chess on ice.” Teams take turns each end (think of baseball innings or bowling frames) trying to get their eight allotted 42-pounds stones of Scottish granite closest to the center of the “house,” marked on the ice by a large circular target. Sweepers generate enough friction to create a very thin film of water to help keep the stones moving as desired.

                        The men’s competition in Sochi is really a tossup. Norway – and its funky, colorful pants that helped bring the sport into the spotlight in Vancouver – is looking to unseat Canada, which has won three of the last four world championships but comes to Sochi with a different skip, Brad Jacobs. Sweden and skip Niklas Edin pose a significant threat for gold as well, while the Great Britain team with skip David Murdoch should also be in serious contention.

                        A rapidly improving Chinese team, Denmark, Russia (as host), Switzerland, Germany and the United States round out the field.

                        In the women’s competition, reigning world champion Great Britain, led by skip Eve Muirhead, who made her debut at age 19 in Vancouver, is a clear favorite. However, despite a new skip in Margaretha Sigfridsson, Sweden will be tough to beat as the side looks to win its third straight Olympic Gold. Other teams that could crack the top two include Canada and 2008 world champion Jennifer Jones, Switzerland and 2012 world champion Mirjam Ott, and a veteran Chinese squad led by Wang Bingyu.

                        The United States and South Korea teams have played well in the weeks leading up to the games and could also pose a threat. Host Russia, Denmark and Japan are also competing.

All curling competition in Sochi is held at the Ice Cube Curling Center.

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