The 2022 Winter Olympics have already started despite the opening ceremony not happening until later in the week. Curling is currently the talk of the Games, so let’s explore the sport in more detail and what sweepers do in curling.
The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are here with the opening ceremony set to take place on Friday.
A reported 3,000 athletes from 91 nations will compete for a medal in what is the 24th edition of the Winter Games.
However, live sport has already started ahead of the ceremony, with mixed doubles in curling getting underway on Wednesday. Curling is one of the most unique events in the Games, and with the sport taking centre stage people are curious about how it works.
Here’s the basics of curling
Curling is played on ice between two teams. Typically, each team has four players in the men’s and women’s events, while the mixed doubles competition features two athletes (one man and one woman) per side.
The two teams each take turns throwing (it’s actually more like sliding) the curling stone down a long sheet of ice.
The aim of the game is to get the stone closest to the target, called a ‘house.’
How heavy the curling stone is and what it’s made of
The curling stones are a lot heavier than you might think. They must weigh between 17.24kg and 19.96kg (38lbs-44lbs), which also includes the handle and bolt on top.
Curling stones are made from granite which comes from Alisa Craig – an island off Scotland. They are also made from the Trefor Granite Quarry in Wales. The bottom is concave – rather than flat – which limits friction and increases the distance the stone can travel.
Here’s what sweepers do in curling
Speaking of friction, here’s what sweepers do in curling. Curlers sweep the ice to help the stone travel farther and straighter, as sweeping warms up the ice and reduces friction.
The surface curling is played on is called ‘pebbled ice’. This is made by spraying tiny droplets of water on the ice that freeze. It is used because it makes the spin of the stone more controllable than normal ice.
According to the Smithsonian: ‘Sweeping in front of the stone reduces friction and helps the curlers control the amount of curl the stone undergoes. The sweeping quickly heats and melts the pebbles on the ice leaving a film of water.’
This means that the more the curling team sweeps, the farther the stone will travel without curling. If they want more curl or shorter travel, they do less sweeping. Sweeping is performed by applying lots pressure to the ice by pushing his or her weight down on the broom.
Interestingly, curling is the only sport where competitors are allowed to change the direction of a projectile once it has left the thrower’s hand.
Curling is certainly a unique sport and one we’ll be seeing more of in the coming days!
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