Every four years, one sport grips us like no other.
On the surface, it shouldn’t work. Stones, brooms and lots of yelling don’t seem like the ingredients for elite sport, and yet it all comes together perfectly to make curling a staple of every Winter Olympics.
Beijing 2022 will be no different, with three competitions on the menu at the Beijing National Aquatics Centre: the men’s, women’s and mixed doubles events.
Grainger vows Team GB will improve after Beijing disappointment
Curling was part of the inaugural Winter Games in 1924, although it took 82 years for the results to be officially recognised.
It disappeared from the programme immediately – returning as a demonstration event in 1932, 1988 and 1992 – before its true introduction in 1998.
British fans over the age of 30 will likely remember being gripped by curling fever in 2002, when Rhona Martin let go of the ‘Stone of Destiny’ and catapulted Great Britain to a stunning upset gold medal win in Salt Lake City.
However, it is Canada and Sweden who have dominated the sport, winning 19 medals between them across the six Games curling has featured in. Canada have typically fared better in the men’s competition, while Sweden have an unrivalled record in the women’s.
The mixed doubles made its debut at the Games at PyeongChang 2018 in South Korea, with Canada’s Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris securing the gold medal.
In Beijing, the mixed doubles competition will unofficially start the Games on February 2 before the Opening Ceremony two days later – with wall-to-wall curling on the horizon throughout the show in China. The mixed doubles gold medal game is on February 8, while the men’s and women’s finals are on February 19 and February 20 respectively.
So chances are when you tune into Eurosport and discovery+ in February, you will be greeted by grown adults huddled around a moving stone, frantically brushing near it as it dawdles towards the target zone…
Team GB athletes and medal prospects
Team GB have tasted gold twice at the Olympics: in 1924 (men) and 2002 (women). The medals passed them by in South Korea in 2018 as Eve Muirhead’s rink lost the women’s bronze medal match and Kyle Smith’s men’s team fell before the semi-finals.
Britain have secured spots in the men’s, women's and mixed doubles competition in Beijing.
Bruce Mouat and Jen Dodds will compete in the mixed doubles, while Mouat will also skip the men’s team comprising of Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie and Hammy McMillan.
The women’s team will have Muirhead as its skip, along with Vicky Wright, Jennifer Dodds, Hailey Duff and Mili Smith.
Mouat has built a rink which has become one the most formidable in the world. First formed in 2017, they won silver at the Worlds in Calgary and then achieved an unprecedented double when they claimed back-to-back Grand Slam titles in Canada.
Events and format
As mentioned above, curling at Beijing 2022 is split into three categories: men, women and mixed doubles.
Each competition features 10 teams, who play every other team in a round-robin tournament. The highest-ranked four teams advance to the semi-finals and medal matches.
The men’s and women’s teams are comprised of four players per team, while the mixed doubles features two athletes (one male, one female). There is one reserve player, known as an alternate, in case of injury.
Who won the last Olympic gold in curling?
United States won their first-ever Olympic curling gold in the men’s competition at PyeongChang 2018, while Sweden claimed the women’s title for the third time in four Games.
The inaugural mixed doubles event was won by Canada.
Before we begin, a few terms:
- Stone: A polished block of granite with a handle on top
- House: A circular archery-style target on the ice floor
- Button: The centre (aka bullseye) of the house
The goal of curling is simple: score more points than the opposition. To score points, you need to get your stone(s) closer to the button than any of the opposing colour. Except it’s slightly more complicated than that…
There are four players on each team, with each player getting two stones. Players go in order, with the first player (known as the lead) throwing a team’s first two stones, the second playing the next two, and so on. The two teams take alternate shots.
Players send their stones down a narrow strip of ice towards the house, sliding as they line up their shot, and must let go before arriving at a marker known as the hog line. Any stones that touch the sides or go past the house are removed from the game.
The points are totalled up when all 16 stones have been played, with the match continuing over 10 ends – effectively 10 separate mini games of curling. There is a house at both the top and bottom of the ice, with the start points alternating each end.
How does curling scoring work?
Closest to the button wins. If a team has multiple stones closer to the button than the opposition, they get that many points. Examples as follows:
Example 1: Yellow team score one point
Example two: Red team score two points
There are no ties, so if the scores are level a tie-breaker end is held and repeated until a winner is found. Be warned: the tactics to build a score are often complex and counter-intuitive.
What is the hammer?
The hammer is the most important part of curling – the final shot in an end. A team keeps the hammer until they score a point. If an end is blank, or their opponent scores a point, the hammer is retained. A coin toss decides who starts with the hammer.
Also look out for ‘guard’ shots, that sit in front of the house to impede their opponents.
How do you curl in curling?
When the stone is released, its handle is given a little twist in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction.
This is what makes the stone curve, or curl, when it travels down the ice. But there is another way to control a stone’s direction, which brings us onto…
What does sweeping do in curling?
Aka the people with the brooms being shouted at. So what do they actually do? A lot, it turns out.
The sweepers help control the pace and direction of a stone. The pressure of the broom reduces the friction between the stone and ice, basically allowing them to steer it.
Up to three players can sweep the ice at one time, but they must not touch the stone. All while being peppered with commands from the skip.
How long is the curling rink?
The curling arena is 46 metres long and five metres wide.
Also, the ice is not smooth! It has a pebble-like surface, created by frozen water droplets, that allows the stones to curl.
Muirhead ready for 'craziness' back in the UK following gold medal win
'Really proud of what we've done' - Team Mouat reflect on silver medal at Beijing
Share this article