AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s become a highly watched event, and it’s one Americans will likely keep an eye on during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, but what is curling?
It first appeared in the 1924 Olympic Games, according to NBC Olympics, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) didn’t officially recognize the results of that contest until 2006. Curling wasn’t a regular event until 1998 and mixed doubles curling was added in 2018.
Curling has gained popularity over the past few years, in large part thanks to a team of USA curlers led by John Shuster. The five-time Olympian will be defending his gold medal in Beijing and in 2022 will be the first curler to carry the American flag in an Olympic opening ceremony.
When you’re rooting for Team USA during the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, here’s what you need to know about the sport of curling.
There are three different curling events that take place at the Olympics: the men’s tournament, women’s tournament and mixed doubles.
During the men’s and women’s tournaments you’ll see two teams going head to head, each team has four players (and during each round of competition each player will get two stones each). During mixed doubles there’s only two people on a team, one man and one woman (and they’ll play with five stones each).
Watch: The USA curling team wins gold at the Winter Olympics in 2018.
Each team will take turns pushing those super heavy stones, 42 pounds to be exact, down the ice with the goal of landing closest to the middle of a series of circles in the ice (think darts mixed with bocce).
You’ll see players sweep the ice in front of the stone to clear anything away that may send the stone off course. That also increases the distance the stone travels.
Know the lingo
Players push off of a rubber block called the hack and glide with the stone until the front edge hits the hog line, a line in the ice just over 30 feet from the hack. They’ll then push and curl the stone towards the circles at the other end of the ice.
The circle in the very middle is called the tee but is more regularly referred to as the button. The circle that’s six feet around is known as the house. Your stone has to be within the house to score.
Competitions in the men’s and women’s tournament consist of 10 ends, mixed doubles play eight (ends are similar to an inning in baseball).
During the men and women’s tournaments there is a set order that teammates will throw the stones. The first player is called the lead. The next is called the second, then the third (or the vice-skip) and the last person is called the skip.
The team that won the end starts first on the next one. You may hear announcers describe shooting last as “having the hammer.” You’ll hear them say a stone is thrown, which really is more of a slide, push and twist.
How it’s scored
A team scores a point for every stone that ends up closer to the button than the other team’s closest stone (again, stones have to be inside the house to count). Only the team closest to the middle gets points for that end.
That’s why you’ll sometimes see teams trying to knock stones from the other team out of the circle, and using stones to protect their own.
Once all the stones have been thrown in an end the points are added up. The team with the most points after all ends is the winner. Teams can concede after a certain point if they think they don’t have a shot of winning (that’s fairly common and likely to happen during the Olympics).
If a player releases a stone after it touches the hogline, the stone doesn’t count. That’s called a hogline violation.
You cannot touch a moving stone, even if it’s your own. If, for example, you touch the stone with your broom while clearing its path, that stone will be removed from play and other stones it comes into contact with can be moved back to their original locations.
If one of the stationary stones is accidentally moved by a player, the non-offending team will get to replace it.
You can read more about the intricacies of curling and the rules from NBC Olympics here.
Watch the opening ceremony
When: Friday, Feb. 4 at 5:30 a.m. CT | 7 p.m. CT
TV/Stream: NBC (KXAN), Peacock, NBCOlympics.com
KXAN News reporter Jala Washington is in Beijing reporting on Texas athletes and beyond for the entirety of the Games and will have daily updates on air and online.