SOCHI 2014

May 16 '14 Need To Knows: Curling

By Paul D. Bowker | May 16, 2013, 2:30 p.m. (ET)

Skip Debbie McCormick (C) releases the stone during the women's curling round robin game between Japan and the United States at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games on Feb. 16, 2010.

MEDAL CONTENDERS

Team Brown, skipped by 1998 Olympian Erika Brown, certainly has all-star status in the world of curling. The squad features three-time Olympian and eight-time national champion Debbie McCormick, 2006 Olympian and three-time national champ Jessica Schultz, and 2002 Olympian and five-time national champ Ann Swisshelm. Their fourth-place finish at this year’s world championships clinched a spot for the United States in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games but did not specifically clinch a spot for themselves. Team Brown must earn the Olympic spot by winning the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Curling tournament that will take place in November in Fargo, N.D.

CURLING FAMILY

 
Pete Fenson releases the stone as Shawn Rojeski (L) and Joe
Polo brush the ice during the bronze-medal match of the men's
curling between United States and Great Britain at the Torino 2006
Olympic Winter Games.

The Fenson family is clearly a three-generation curling team. Pete Fenson, a bronze medalist at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games, is the skip for one of five U.S. teams that will compete in November at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Fenson’s father, Bob, was coach of the 2006 bronze medal-winning team. A 2010 inductee into the USA Curling Hall of Fame, Bob Fenson was a silver medalist at the 2013 World Senior Championships. Pete’s brother, Eric, is a two-time junior national champion who placed fifth at the 2005 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Pete’s son, Alex, was on the team that won the 2013 USA Curling Junior National Championship. Alex is also a football player at Bemidji High School in Minnesota. When he is not training or competing, Pete runs a pizza restaurant business in Minnesota.

SUPER BOWL CAPTAIN

Vernon Davis, a tight end for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, will be an honorary captain for the U.S. Olympic curling team in Sochi for the second consecutive Olympic Winter Games. Davis was first asked to be honorary captain before the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The 49ers, which played in the Super Bowl in February, continue to be an encouraging partner for curling. The team filmed two public service announcements for USA Curling and has invited Olympians to the 49ers’ Winterfest each March in Lake Tahoe for an outdoor curling demonstration. Davis brought the curling fun to the Bay Area when he hosted a “Curling with the Stars” event at Sharks Ice at San Jose. “I always wanted to go to the Olympics,” Davis told TeamUSA.org. “I’ve actually become best friends with the curling team.”

WOMEN: ALREADY QUALIFIED

 
Jessica Schultz delivering a stone during the 2013 USA Curling
National Championships in Green Bay, Wis.

A fourth-place finish at the 2013 World Women’s Curling Championship by Erika Brown’s team helped clinch a spot in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games for the United States. The first seven spots for Sochi were determined through qualification points earned at the 2012 and 2013 world championships. The United States is No. 5. Russia, which stands at No. 6, gained automatic entry as the host nation. Defending Olympic champion Sweden is No. 1, followed by Switzerland, Great Britain, Canada, United States, Russia, Denmark and South Korea. The final two spots in the 10-nation field will be determined at the final Olympic Qualification Event in December. Germany and Japan head a field of seven countries in the qualification tournament.

NEXT STOP FOR MEN: QUALIFICATION TOURNAMENT

Short one qualification point, the United States must survive the Olympic Qualification Event in December in order to be included in the 10-team field for Sochi. A ninth-place finish at the 2013 Ford World Men’s Curling Championship left the United States with nine Olympic points, just one short of the 10 earned by Switzerland. The United States is in eighth place in the Olympic point standings, but the eighth spot for Sochi went to Russia, the host nation. The United States will now battle No. 9 New Zealand and six other countries for the final two Olympic berths at the Olympic Qualification Event, scheduled for Dec. 11-15 in Fussen, Germany.

TEAM USA TRIALS

Five men’s teams and four women’s teams will compete at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in November. The tournament will take place Nov. 10 through 17 at Scheels Arena in Fargo, N.D. The winning women’s squad will represent the United States in Sochi. The winning men’s squad will represent the United States at the Olympic Qualification Event in December; a top-two finish there would send the team to the Sochi Games. The women’s field includes Team Brown, the 2013 national champs. The other three women’s teams are led by Allison Pottinger, Cassie Potter and Courtney George. Pottinger competed in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games as vice skip for Team McCormick and Potter competed in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games as skip for Team USA when her last name was Johnson. George also was on the 2006 team as fifth/alternate. Brady Clark’s team, which placed ninth at the men’s world championships, heads the five-team men’s field. Other teams are led by 2006 Olympic bronze medalist Pete Fenson, Tyler George, Heath McCormick and Olympic bronze medalist John Shuster.

CHASING A THIRD GAMES

 
The 2006 United States curling team of Pete Fenson, Shawn
Rojeski, Joe Polo, John Shuster and Scott Baird received the
bronze medal  at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games.

John Shuster will seek a third Olympic berth at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in November. He won bronze, the only Olympic medal in USA Curling history, at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games. He returned for the Vancouver Games, where the United States finished a disappointing last among 10 teams. This year he is skipping a team that also includes 2010 Olympian Jeff Isaacson. Third-place finishers at the last two national championships, Team Shuster was the final squad named to the five-team field at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Shuster is a four-time national champion.

THE SOCHI FORMAT

Ten men’s teams and 10 women’s teams will compete for medals in Sochi. The competition includes a nine-game round-robin tournament, followed by semifinal playoffs and the medal round.

DATES TO REMEMBER

The curling competition begins in both the women’s and men’s tournaments on Feb. 10. Round-robin matches will continue through Feb. 17, followed by any tie-breaking matches for the playoffs on Feb. 18 and the semifinals Feb. 19. The women’s medal round will be held Feb. 20, followed a day later by the men’s medal round.

THE VENUE

All of the curling matches will be held at the Ice Cube Curling Center, which is one of the arenas in the Olympics Coastal Cluster in Sochi. It will also be used for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games and was host in March to the World Junior Curling Championship. The Ice Cube has a seating capacity of 3,000 and is designed with a combination of well-rounded contours that resemble the shape of a curling stone. The arena is a movable facility, meaning that like some of the other Olympic facilities, it can be dismantled and then transported to another Russian city to be used as a curling facility. It is expected to be used as a national training center for Russian curlers.

THE OLDEST STONE

The Stirling Stone, which is engraved with a date of the year 1511, is said to be the oldest curling stone in the world. The sport originated in Scotland, where matches were held during the winter on frozen ponds, lochs and marshes. Today’s curling stones, which have handles so that athletes can accurately steer them down a sheet of ice, weigh 19.96 kilograms and are made of dense granite.

THE ENDS OF IT ALL

Each Olympic curling match consists of 10 ends. During each end, each team delivers eight stones (two stones per each member of a four-member team). After all the stones have been played, the score is determined. A team scores one point for each of its own stones located in or touching the house (target) that is closer to the center of the house than any of the opposing team’s stones. If the teams are tied after 10 ends, an extra end is added to determine the match winner.

ABOUT THAT SWEEPING

Sweeping adds the element of fitness to curling, because, to be effective, sweeping must be very vigorous. Sweeping slightly melts the ice, which reduces friction between the running stone and the ice. The result is that the stone will curl less, and slide farther. Sweeping is called for when the stone has not been delivered firmly enough, and/or when the shot is aimed “narrow” or inside the broom target. Sweeping can help a rock slide up to additional 15 feet. Top teams control most shots by using aim and weight “within the sweeping zone.”
 
HISTORY LESSON

Curling was a medal sport at the Chamonix 1924 Olympic Winter Games. It was an Olympic demonstration sport in 1932 in Lake Placid, 1936 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 1964 in Innsbruck, 1988 in Calgary and 1992 in Albertville. It was a medal sport again at the Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games. Canada has won gold in men’s curling at the last two Winter Games, and Sweden has won women’s gold at the last two Winter Games.

Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc. Paul D. Bowker is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.

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