Curling misconceptions that need to be swept away
Curlers want to set the record straight: Curling is a sport, not a game. It’s not just for beer drinkers, and it’s definitely not easy. And yes, curlers do work out.
Despite its centuries-long history, curling doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. In October, the curling world was sent into a uproar when an employee of American Airlines reportedly told a passenger that curling wasn’t a sport. The passenger was trying to check her curling broom for a flight, but the airline agent allegedly told her it couldn’t be checked under the airline’s standard policy for sport equipment.
In a Facebook post that quickly went viral among curlers and curling fans, the passenger said that the employee argued that curling wasn’t a legitimate sport, and certainly “isn’t an elite sport, like golf.” Therefore, the passenger would need to pay a $150 fee for checking her bag of curling equipment instead of the normal $25 fee for sporting gear like hockey sticks or golf clubs.
After the Washington Post reported on the incident, an American Airlines spokesman said in a statement, “We all agree that curling is a sport.”
It wasn’t the first and likely won’t be the last time that the legitimacy of curling was called into question. To help Olympic fans better understand curling, NBC Olympics asked members of the U.S. Olympic curling team and other top American curlers to name the biggest misconceptions about curling. Here’s what they wish everyone knew about the Olympic sport known as “the roaring game.”
Nina Roth, skip of the U.S. Olympic women’s curling team:
Curling takes a lot of strength and physical fitness to perform at a high level. We spend a lot of time in the gym.
John Shuster, skip of the U.S. Olympic men’s curling team and Olympic bronze medalist (2006):
It has become quite physically advanced in recent years!
Tabitha Peterson, third on the U.S. Olympic women’s curling team:
Until people actually get on the ice and try it, they think it looks easy.
John Landsteiner, lead on the U.S. Olympic men’s curling team:
[People think] that the leads shots don't matter. They can't win games, but they can lose games. Every shot matters.
Aileen Geving, second on the U.S. Olympic women’s curling team:
You DO need to be in shape to be a great curler. It isn't just drinking beer, although it can be. To be at the Olympic level, you exert a lot more energy than you do just playing for fun.
Matt Hamilton, second on the U.S. Olympic men’s curling team:
It’s not just a beer drinker's sport and it does require strength and conditioning to compete at a high level in this game. Though the casual play may not require these things as much, for high-level players it is a difference maker.
Joe Polo, alternate on the U.S. Olympic men’s curling team and Olympic bronze medalist (2006):
That it isn't a sport. Curling involves a mix of finesse, power, endurance and strategy that most sports don't.
Craig Brown, alternate on 2014 U.S. Olympic men’s curling team:
It is a very social game at the recreational level, but you truly have to be a dedicated athlete to compete at the top level of the game. It's not just out-of-shape people eating pizza and drinking beer to pass the winter.
Monica Walker, lead on Team Sinclair, which finished second at the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials:
Everyone thinks curling is a drinking sport. Sure, folks have a drink after games, but as they would in recreational softball or soccer. There is SO MUCH more to curling than what meets the eye on TV. Everyone throws the rock too. Everyone sweeps except the skip. We all just rotate around positions.
Colin Hufman, second on Team Clark, which competed at the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials:
[People think] curling isn't a sport, it's a game. But last time I checked, it's called the Olympic Games. That being said, it's way more physically demanding than it looks. To be the best you have to squeeze every ounce of potential out of yourself in the weight room in the hopes that the one extra inch you can carry a rock while sweeping will make the difference between gold and silver.
Alex Carlson, third on Team Sinclair, which finished second at the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials:
People think curling is easy and they can start today and compete in the Olympics in four years. While I do agree that anyone can learn to curl and enjoy it, curling at a competitive level is not something you can just jump in and do. It takes years to build up the skills to execute a shot that is perfect. There are so many small skills that add up to the execution required for Olympic-level curling.
Quinn Evenson, alternate on Team Brown, which competed at the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials:
Yes, being in shape for curling is necessary.
Jamie Sinclair, skip of the team that finished second at the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials:
It is very physically demanding. Fitness has become a huge factor for top performing teams in the last 10 years. Interval training and upper body work for sweepers and leg drive for the throwers.
Chris Plys, alternate on 2010 U.S. Olympic men’s curling team:
Lots of people think curling is easy, and that it doesn't take much athletic skill. But that couldn't be further from the truth. No, you don't need to be able to lift weights like a football player or need crazy amounts of guts like freestyle [skiing] athletes, but the sweeping is incredibly physically demanding. The way you throw the rock is similar to how a player swings a golf club. It is years and years of practice. When people say it looks easy, sometimes I take it as a compliment as it is something that we are always trying to perfect. It only looks easy because we have all done it hundreds of thousands of times.