By Kim Hutchison
Curling is truly a fascinating sport. Rocks are glided down the ice surface with the purpose of hitting other rocks out of the way. Okay, so perhaps it is a little more complicated than that!
Heavy, granite stones are strategically pushed towards a specific target while sweepers holding brooms very skillfully navigate the speed and accuracy of each stone, with the help of the teammate who released it, guiding it to its idea location.
In the earlier days of curling which date back to 16th century Scotland, rocks had flat bottoms and throwers had little control over where their rock would land relying more so on luck rather than the skill required to succeed in the sport today which has earned the nickname “chess on ice”.
With relation to positions, there are four players on each team. The “lead” or “first” throws the team’s first two stones of a round of play known as an “end” and sweeps while other team members throw other stones, while the “second” throws the teams third and fourth stones and sweeps for all other players. The second’s goal is to move the other team’s stones away from the target.
The “third” throws the team’s fifth and sixth stones and usually sweeps for the second and the lead. The “skip” acts as the captain of the team and determines where the thrower must aim in order to get the stones in the best position possible. When it’s the skips turn to throw a stone, he or she usually throws two at the end of the round. When the skip is throwing, determining strategy is up to the third.
Lastly, if the skip does not play last rocks in each end, the last player to throw is known as the “fourth”.
After each end, the thirds for both teams determine which team scored and how many points that team received in total, emphasizing the etiquette and sportsmanship this sport entails. After both teams have delivered eight rocks, the team with the rock closest to the target is awarded one point for each of its own rocks that is closer than the opponent’s closest rock.
This is just some of the interesting information about the sport, one that is gaining popularity in younger generations in Ponoka.
The junior curling program began on Nov. 5 and has 32 registered and enthusiastic members aged eight to 18 who meet at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Centre every Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Barry Neath runs the program along with five other adult helpers who work closely with inexperienced members to develop the skills required to progress, or to strengthen the skills experienced members may already possess.
If you’re interested, it isn’t too late to join. Registration, which costs $25, will be available in January and the first series of games for members with experience will begin on Jan. 7. For more information phone Barry Neath at 403-783-7410.