Last week Ann Swisshelm (left), the 2014 U.S. women’s Olympic curling team’s “lead,” and newcomer Sarah Anderson (right), an alternate for the 2014 squad, visited the BuzzFeed office and took us to a local curling club to teach us more about the sport. Like many casual fans, we assumed we could immediately pick it up and dominate. We were very wrong.
To begin with, curling is a deceptively athletically demanding sport. Since it relies so heavily on balance, players must have complete control of their body, along with a strong core and great flexibility. This lunge, which none of us could do, is just a warm-up.
After stretching, we learned how to push off the blocks with the curling equivalent of training wheels to help with balance.
For right-handed curlers, the right foot is used to push off and the left foot is used to slide and guide the body down the ice. Ideally, this is accomplished in one powerful fluid motion.
Even with the training tool, it was easier said than done.
Just look at that extreme power!
But after a few trial runs we started to get the hang of it.
So we moved on to the release. The trick we learned was to point the “C” on the rock to 10 o’clock and let go with a slight clockwise rotation.
When put together, it should look something like this:
Here is our best attempt:
Once again, what it’s SUPPOSED to look like:
And what we did:
Regardless, we felt confident enough to move along in the training and attempted to conquer the extremely underrated part of the game: sweeping. The key to a successful sweep is to treat the curling lane the same as you would a putting green. So even if the rock is perfectly lined up, you still want to make sure the path is clear.
To execute a shot or alter the path of the rock, there is a lot of technique and skill involved.
And trust us, this motion turned out to be surprisingly exhausting.
So we let the professionals show us how it’s done and, well, let’s just say we feel good about the U.S.’ chances in Sochi.
We learned just how under-appreciated this sport and these athletes truly are. We come from athletic backgrounds, but the most basic aspects of curling were difficult for us, even with the training tool. And we literally cannot emphasize how crucial that tool was. Without it, there is no way we could have stayed upright.
Ann and Sarah were incredibly kind — they made our smallest accomplishments feel like a big deal and were willing to answer every single question we had, down to actually physically showing us how points are scored.
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