A helpful guide for misunderstood winter Olympic sports

By: Robert Jamieson ~Staff Writer~

While the sport of curling gets a steady stream of admiration from its viewers, it also comes with much confusion as to what is actually happening during the event. Lucky for you, the resident expert on curling is here to explain its scoring, rules and lingo.

The name curling comes from the stone’s ability to curl — or spin — when thrown. Curling is played between two opposing teams with the objective of scoring more points than the other team.

In the most basic sense, you get points when you get your stone closer to the button — the center of the ice — than your opponent’s stone. The button is the inner-most circle of the target at the end of the rink, which is called the house.

There are 10 ends in a curling match, which are similar to innings in baseball. Each team throws eight times in an end, and each player throws twice in each end with teams alternating shots. For all you math majors out there this means there are four players on each team. If you have been watching at home, this much you should already know.

These four players make up the positions of lead, second, third and skip. The lead throws the first two stones in each end, and the second throws the third and fourth.

They are also the primary sweepers for the third throws the next two stones and the skip (captain) who throws the last two and determines the team’s strategy. If your team has the hammer, it means you throw last in that end, which is a big advantage when attempting to score points.

The hammer is only switched to the opposite team if a point is scored in that end. If the team without the hammer scores, it is a big loss for the team who had the hammer, similar to breaking serve in tennis.

Easy enough, right? Let’s get a little more technical. The two players with the brooms in their hand who follow the stone as it travels down the ice are called sweepers. Sweeping is necessary when the stone needs to pick up speed. If you hear a lot of yelling during sweeping, it is because the skip or third is yelling, “Hurry hard,” which orders the sweepers to begin sweeping.

Often considered “chess on ice,” curling has much more of a resemblance to shuffleboard. As stated above, the primary object is to get your stone closest to the button.

Each stone you get closer than your opponent’s is worth one point. Some throws will end up short of the house because the players are attempting to throw a guard or a block. This is to either block the opponents’ stone from entering the house or to guard your stone from being bumped out of the house.