Beginners Guide to Olympic Curling

06 November 2013 / 12:00

Curling formed part of the programme at the very first Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix in 1924 but was not to appear again as a medal event until Nagano in 1998.

It was a demonstration sport at Lake Placid 1932, Calgary 1988 and Albertville 1992 while the results from Chamonix 1924 were only considered official by the IOC in 2006.

Curling Demonstration Event

Great Britain, playing as the Royal Caledonian Curling Club and skipped by William K. Jackson, took the only gold medal on offer in 1924.

Curling’s reintroduction onto the Olympic programme in 1998 saw both men’s and women’s competitions included and Sochi 2014 will be the sport’s fifth successive appearance.

Canada are the most successful nation having medalled at every single Games since 1998 – that amounting to three gold, three silver and two bronze.

Britain’s only other success aside from Chamonix 1924 came at Salt Lake 2002 when Rhona Howie delivered her ‘Stone of Destiny’ for gold, pushing Switzerland into silver.

GB Women Curling Team 2002

Curling’s origins date back to 16th century Scotland where games were played during the winter on frozen ponds, lochs and marshes.

While a curling team can be five-strong only four can play at any one time across the roles of skip, third – effectively the vice-skip, second and lead with the fifth known as the alternate.

Played on ice, referred to as a sheet, 45.72m long and not more than 5m wide, teams take turns in delivering a 19.96kg granite stone towards a circular target area known as the house.

Team GB Women's Curling

The aim is to get the stone closest to the centre of the house with games consisting of ten ends – the equivalent to an inning in baseball.

Each team will deliver eight stones per end – two per player with ten ends per game – in a set order presented to the officials prior to the start.

Scoring is determined after all 16 stones have been delivered and only the team with the closest stone to the house allowed to register a total per end.

Points are scored for stones located in or touching the house closer than those of the opposition. If the score is tied after ten ends the game goes into extra ends until one side wins.

olympic curling brooms

Brooms are used to sweep the ice in front of the stone when it is delivered. This reduces friction and speeds the stone up as well as straightening its trajectory.

Curlers also wear special shoes with different soles. One sole is made from Teflon to allow a player to glide down the ice on their sliding foot. The other is made from rubber and provides traction.

Ten men’s and ten women’s teams will contest the competition at Sochi 2014 each playing each other once in the group stage.

The top two teams in each group will then progress to the semi-finals where first play fourth and second play third to determine who contests the gold and bronze medal matches.

If any teams ranked from fifth downwards share the same win-loss record as those in the top four a tie-breaker ensues with the victor sealing their place in the semi-finals.

Olympic Guide to Curling