Also, it might be worth familiarizing yourself with the term “hammer.” The team with the hammer gets to throw the last rock, which is a huge tactical advantage. The hammer for the first end is awarded to the team that puts two rocks closest to the button in a pre-game shootout. (Officials measure the combined distance.) As the match wears on, the hammer goes to the team that did not score in the previous end.
Simple, right? Thought so. In any case, there’s a ton of strategy involved, especially in the early portions of ends as teams set up their stones ahead of a flurry of late action in hopes of scoring as many points as possible.
Why do curlers turn the handle just before they release the rock?
Because of friction with the ice, a rock will naturally curl as it travels down the sheet. So to control that curl, players give the handle a little turn — either clockwise or counterclockwise. They must release the handle before they reached a horizontal stripe called the hog line.
What’s the deal with sweeping?
Good question. Scholars have actually written researchpapers on the subject of sweeping, which is fraught with controversy — seriously! The physics are complicated. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say that sweeping slightly increases the temperature of the ice while creating micro-scratches on the surface. The result is that sweepers are able to manipulate the path that the rock takes as it travels down the sheet. We’re talking inches rather than yards. But in a sport that hinges on precision, good sweeping can separate gold from silver.
How is mixed doubles different from the team events?
There are fewer players (two versus four), fewer ends (eight versus 10) and fewer total rocks in play (12 versus 16). The result is a fast-paced, high-drama competition that will make its Olympic debut here in Pyeongchang.
One team to watch: Matt and Becca Hamilton, siblings from Wisconsin who will compete for the United States. Their Olympic experience could turn into a marathon. In addition to mixed doubles, the Hamiltons are also competing in the men’s and women’s events. The only other curler who could pull double duty here is Jenny Perret, who will compete in mixed doubles for Switzerland and is an alternate in the women’s event.